Can you work as a nurse on prescribed narcotics?



I'm on the path of getting into nursing school. However, I have a medical condition that causes chronic pain and I will be on prescribed narcotics for the rest of my life. Before I continue on this career path I want to find out if you can work as a nurse on prescribed narcotics. I would want to work in pediatrics. However, I still understand that the job is physically demanding which also may pose a problem. My condition is neurologic and affects my back.

Thank you for any information you can provide.

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

Sorry you are having to cope with this. Many nurses (myself included) have suffered back strain/injuries - we know how tough it is.

You need to refer this question to your state's BON. Each state establishes its own rules & regs for nursing practice issues.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

1 Article; 7,349 Posts

Specializes in Pedi. Has 16 years experience.

Not only does each state have its own guidelines but each facility has its own rules as well. I can tell you that my former hospital (a pediatric hospital), they had a policy that employees could not work while on narcotics, regardless of the reason for taking them. Though, interestingly, they didn't do pre-employment drug screens.


2 Posts

OK thanks for the info.


2 Posts

I was diagnosed with Psoriatic arthritis in nursing school and placed on narcotic meds. I was open with my potential employers about my disease and my meds. We did the physical and opiates were, of course, found. Not a problem because they are aware of my meds. I did speak with the occupational RN at the hospital to discuss the policies of the facility. Basically if I am in too much pain, then I should not be at work. I only take my narco meds at home. I have signed FMLA intermittent leave paperwork from my MDs at my HR office to cover me for disease-related absences.


1 Post

I Was Involved In A CarAccident A Couple Years Ago And Take Oxycontin. I Am A Nurse Manage And Do Not Work In Patient Care Areas. My Employer Is Aware And It Has Not Been An Issue.


41 Posts

Specializes in Rehab/Brain/Stroke/Spine. Has 16 years experience.

I endured a stress fracture, while pregnant, as a floor RN. (I am still a floor RN :)

I was ordered Percocet prn for pain, and was put on duty with restrictions. I worked at the Unit Clerk desk for the last 3 months of my pregnancy, and had a walking cast. I had to take a Percocet almost every morning. Not a problem with employee health, and not any of the business of anyone else, period.

As long as you are not IMPAIRED while on narcotics, and they are prescribed, you are fine.

Also, I am sure you are covered with The Americans with Disabilities Act. If you

have a chronic health condition, which requires you to take narcotics to complete activities of daily living, as prescribed, you should be fine.

I've worked with a pain management specialist, and recall many times he explained to pt's and their SO's that "being in pain, and attempting to work has been researched and shown to cause more errors, and cost the company more money in sick days" and some other facts I cannot recall.

Also, I bet your empathy and understanding of chronic pain will be an asset b/c of your personal experience.

Although there is a rise in prescription drug abuse, pt's that are non-abusers are still under medicated (per research).

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,981 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 26 years experience.

My issue is not with pain but anxiety, for which I take Klonopin at night and Ativan PRN, both of which are controlled substances. I am allowed to medicate at work if I need it, and am never impaired in any fashion. But it all depends on what kind of work you do and what environment you're working in.