Did I just waste a TON of time?!

Nurses General Nursing


Please forgive me if this gets a little lengthy but I will try and keep it as brief as possible. I am 38 and happily married for 7 years with a 3 year old boy with a newly diagnosed autism. I just graduated from a local school with my practical nurse certificate degree and will be pursuing the RN transition program in the fall with very little left to finish. I am an addict in successful recovery for the past ten years. Prior to that, I collected two possession of marijuana charges and two DUI's. I successfully completed a recovery program and and truly on the other side. Since my recovery, I have worked in residential treatment programs with adolescents in a psychiatric hospital setting dealing with addictions as well as a variety of other issues and have enjoyed most every moment of it. I worked side by side with the unit nurses and, after beginning a pursuit toward a Psych degree, changed two years ago and went into nursing. Now I am looking toward taking the NCLEX and find a job, however, maybe I should feel a little stupid here, but the positions that I have applied for have shut down rather abruptly when the issue comes up about substance abuse. I realize it is a legitimate concern for an employer but I have worked in a hospital or residential treatment center for the past 9 years, both with random drug screens and have never been relieved from a job or relapsed since my recovery. Is there maybe some suggestions or stories of people that have been able to go into this field with a tainted background that might be encouraging to me or should I look in another area, possibly the health department or something that does not deal directly with meds to get some experience? Please give me some pointers here. I need a job pretty soon here and feel a little foolish that I had not even considered this.:o

Specializes in Ortho, Case Management, blabla.

What kind of positions are you applying for exactly?

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

Have you tried treatment centers or detox centers? Many of those places will hire a nurse in recovery.

Initially, I have been applying to long-term care facilities but, at this point, would be open to anything. I left the job I was at (residential treatment facility) in December to focus on studying for the NCLEX and job search. I would go back to the Psych hospital but they won't hire me as a nurse until I finish the transition program, they use RN's, but I'm fairly certain that I could eventually go back there at that time ... a year from now, but I would like some experience before then. I am feeling a little panicked ... thanks for your quick response.

I used to work at a drug treatment facility. I'd say 75% of the people working there were in recovery. It would be a good place for you to prove yourself. Then you would have a good reference for another nursing job. Good Luck.

That is a great idea and I truly appreciate your response. However, there are two recovery centers in our area, one is where I used to work and only is interested in RN's, which I will most likely spend a little time when I get to that level and the other one has not returned a phone call. They're a human resources beurocratic nightmare and won't even accept phone calls to follow up on apps. Thanks again for the responses. Keep em coming ... just your time so far has been a real encouragement.

Specializes in Med-Surg, ED.

Do you need to bring up the issue of past substance abuse at all? I mean, you have been clean for a while now. I don't remember ever being asked directly about substance abuse in any interview I've been on.

Honestly, if I were in your Nursemates, I would only bring it up if directly asked, and then I would keep my answer very short, to the point, and keep a non-defensive tone.

Like, I wouldn't say "Well I did drugs for X amount of years but I've been clean and I've passed all my random drug tests" But I might say "I had a history of substance-related issues but they have been resolved for many years now."

And you might bring copies of your results from your negative drugs tests with you, but only show them if they demand proof, don't offer them.

Good luck. I am sure that you will find a great place to work eventually.

Specializes in mostly in the basement.

Maybe I'm skipping something so I apologize---but why is this issue even coming up?

Are they asking questions relevant to the position or are you bringing it up? I'm confused. Will your license have restrictions?

I don't get it.

Both of the last replies sound just as confused as I was when this started becoming an issue ... like I said, it's been ten years. But, no, I don't bring it up unless I'm asked directly but several of the applications have questions outright such as "have you ever been convicted of, pled guilty, or no contest to any felony or misdemeanor charge involving the use, sale, or traffic of illegal drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances?" Most of the applications that I've seen have something very similar to this question, and the very last declination that I received just got the results of my criminal background check back and very abruptly informed me that I was 'unhireable'. Any facility any more will do a background check and soon will all be going to fingerprint FBI checks so it probably needs to come up some time in the interview ... otherwise, I agree, I wouldn't start preaching about my addictions and recovery. I'm not even that kind of person ... still feels a little cheesy to me, but I think I need to come up with a way of bringing it up so as to avoid the impression that I'm trying to be secretive then 'found out' when the criminal background check comes back.

Specializes in Rehab., Home Health, Geriatrics, MR/DD.

  1. Well, I don't know how you approached it when applying for these jobs, but I would suggest a couple things....Transparency goes a long way, and so bringing the subject up right off the bat is very important...you should bring it up before they even ask...they shouldn't have to feel like they are going on a fact finding mission about you....so I would bring it up with supporting documentation in hand...ie: certificate of completion of treatment, court documents, etc......another thing I would point out is if you are an LPN without a restricted license, then obviously you were good enough for your state BON, and I would state that at whatever facility....being proactive and your own advocate in these types of situations go a long way....let them know they are welcome to randomly drug test you at anytime, etc....just be very open and honest.....the only thing I think that could be the 'deal breaker' so to speak would be the drug charge.....some places are zero tolerance as far as that goes...is there anyway you could get that expunged? well that is my two cents and I wish you much luck because I believe recovering nurses with good recovery have skills, assets, and coping tools that can help a lot of patients as there is such a chemical dependency epidemic and at the very least can show patients that others do come out the other side to lead productive sober lives......God Bless, Nazarite, RN

Being realistic, it will probably be very difficult for you to get your first nursing job. I think you may have to set your standards very low. Go to some long term care facilities that really need people. I think you need a nursing job so you can prove yourself to future employers, like-yes I can have access to all kinds of controlled substance and i'm not going to steal them. I know nurses who are in recovery and who have had legal problems in their past. They have managed to work past it. It will work for you. I'm sorry you are having this difficulty, I don't think you wasted your time.

i've got to ask a question here.....have you already applied to take the nclex? i have a friend who had to jump through all sorts of hoops to even sit for the nclec-pn. she had a conviction on her record and the bon would not let her sit even though it had been 15 years since her conviction. after much paperwork, she did sit and pass the exam.

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