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Being unable to practice nursing safely due to use of drugs, alcohol, or possession of those substances for other than a legitimate purpose is considered under the Florida law a violation of the Nurse Practice Act and can result in disciplinary action taken against a nurse’s license by the Florida Board of Nursing.
The Florida Board of Nursing was created by the Florida Legislature to assure protection of the public from nurses who do not meet minimum requirements for safe practice.
For nurses with Florida nursing licenses accused of substance abuse Nurse Practice Act impacts them in four scenarios:
The Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) was created by the Florida Legislature as an adjunct to the Board of Nursing and is the only officially sanctioned clearinghouse or case management program recognized by the Board of Nursing.
IPN maintains an administrative staff, case managers, and an approved list of psychiatrists, psychologists, and addictionologists who are recognized as competent to evaluate nurses. Remember, the guiding principle for the IPN approved evaluation is whether or not the nurse is safe to practice nursing.
Some criticism of the IPN Florida is that case managers are too quick to draw conclusions from the professional mental health evaluator’s report and assume that a particular nurse is in need of immediate in-patient care or a 2-5 year IPN monitoring contract. In some cases, these are appropriate measures. In other cases, they are not and what is or what is not appropriate usually turns the particular facts in those cases.
In some instances, the Department of Health (DOH) has brought allegations further with little or no evidence to support its conclusions that the nurses abuse drugs or alcohol. In those circumstances, an experienced health care attorney can possibly make a difference.
In other instances, the evidence is more compelling and a strategy must be employed to protect the nurse’s license while at the same time addressing the issues with the Board of Nursing with the prosecuting attorneys at DOH.
If your goal is to save your license and career there’s no substitute for knowledge and experience. Knowledge of the applicable laws, experience with the process, familiarity with DOH and the IPN program, as well as a track record of helping nurses and other health care professionals with successful strategies for protecting their license serves only to benefit the RN, ARNP, LPN, or CNA. Knowledge is power and the more you have the better leverage you have to successfully navigate the system.
The goal is to avoid license suspension, revocation, and/or lengthy involvement in the IPN process, if possible. Experienced health care lawyers know what winning strategies work. For example, IPN utilizes a list of psychologists and psychiatrists to evaluate nurses who are alleged to be impaired. Some evaluators are better than others. Knowing which evaluators are appropriate for a particular case is important.
To avoid harsh consequences of going it alone seek advice and counsel from an experienced health care lawyer if you are facing allegations of impairment and/or substance abuse.
When faced with serious allegations of drug abuse, DUI arrest, medication diversion or other serious charges its best to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who has handled IPN matters and cases before the Florida Board of Nursing.
You want someone to handle the case for you professionally and help save your Florida nursing license, so you can get back to work!