We Help You Defend Your License!
We have years of experience helping nurse professionals like you keep their license.
Let Us Help You:
- Review your letter from the DOH Investigator
- Provide advice on how to successfully navigate the system
- Provide advice on settlement versus challenging the allegations
- Argue mitigating circumstances which might lessen the penalties
- Offer advice on options & strategies for dealing with IPN
- Representation before DOH and your professional board
- Provide you after representation with a letter for future employers explaining how the case was concluded
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.
In Florida, nurses who are accused of substance abuse generally run afoul of the Nurse Practice Act in four scenarios:
- A nurse self-reports then does not comply with the requirements of Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN).
- A nurse is reported by a co-worker or employer.
- An outside event (DUI, arrest, etc.) triggers an investigation.
- A nurse tests positive and fails a pre-employment check or employer orders a drug screen.
Section 456.072(1)(aa), Florida Statutes, subjects a nurse’s license to discipline for testing positive for any drug or any confirmed pre-employment check, or employer orders a drug screening when the practitioner does not have a lawful prescription or legitimate medical reason for using the drug.
Common Nursing License Defense Questions
What is the range of penalties a nurse can encounter when a report is made that he or she is impaired?
Depending upon the circumstances, the Board of Nursing has penalty guidelines that it follows ranging from a fine, reprimand of the license, and evaluation by an IPN approved evaluator (i.e., psychologist, psychiatrist, or addictionologist) all the way up to revocation of the nurse’s license, depending upon the severity of the case.
For instance, under the Board of Nursing’s disciplinary guidelines for the following violations, the Board may impose the following range of penalties:
Rule 64B9-8.006(3)(g), Florida Administrative Code
(g) Engaging or attempting to engage in the possession, sale or distribution of controlled substances as set forth in Chapter 893, F.S., for illegitimate purposes; being unable to practice nursing with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of illness or use of alcohol, drugs, narcotics, or chemicals or any other type of material or as a result of any mental or physical condition; testing positive for any drug, as defined in Section 112.0455, F.S., on any confirmed pre-employment or employer-ordered drug screening when the practitioner does not have a lawful prescription and legitimate medical reason for using such drug; or being terminated from a treatment program for impaired practitioners for failure to comply without good cause with the terms of the monitoring or treatment contract; or not successfully completing a drug or alcohol treatment program. (Section 456.072(1)(z), (aa), or (hh), or 464.018(1)(i) or (j), F.S.
- MINIMUM: $250 fine, suspension, and IPN evaluation
- MAXIMUM: $500 fine, Suspension
- MINIMUM: $500 fine, suspension, and IPN evaluation
- MAXIMUM: Revocation
What is the Intervention Project for Nurses in Florida and what is its role with nurses accused of substance or alcohol abuse?
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.
Why does hiring an experienced health care attorney make sense?
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 license, so you can get on with your life!
For a FREE no obligation confidential consultation with an experienced health care attorney call 850-222-7000 to schedule a telephone conference with Attorney Jeff Howell.