Nurses and Lawyers have (at least) one thing in common: We both had to work really, really hard for our licenses. Lots of classes and lots of tests and then one big test (NCLEX!) and finally—Ah, finally!—the nurse gets the right to wear the scrubs and the lawyer gets the right to wear the suit.
So now that we have our license, it’s important that we keep it, right? In Arkansas, nurses are subject to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. A nurse can get in hot water with the Board for many reasons, including positive drug tests, discrepancies with unwanted or unused drugs, falsifying medical records, failure to keep adequate records, failure to complete continuing education hours, etc.
One of the most frequent issues is the positive nursing drug test. The reason for the drug test itself is often just a co-worker or unsatisfied patient (or disgruntled girlfriend/boyfriend) that wants to cause problems for the nurse. Most often, the nurse shows up for work and is unimpaired but has drugs in his or her system. (So, for instance, the nurse has used drugs sometime in the past several days when he or she was not at work or on call.)
What happens if a Nurse Fails a Drug Test?
If a nurse does fail a drug test, he or she will likely lose their job. If you fail the test, your employer will now report your failed drug test to the Arkansas State Nursing Board. However, depending on the circumstances, the nurse may want to self-report the violation to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.
What happens next can strongly impact the next steps an Arkansas nurse must take. (For more information about grounds for nursing discipline, go here.)
Once you are reported to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing for a positive drug test, you will likely receive a letter asking you to surrender your nursing license for a period of one year. At the end of that year, you may re-apply and will likely be put on some form of probation, which may require call-ins to see if you have been selected to be drug tested that day, along with reports by you and performance evaluations by your new employer (if you can find one).
In most situations, you will not want to surrender your license.
As of November 2018 the Arkansas State Board of Nursing has a new program called the Alternative to Discipline Act. This law allows a nurse to enroll in treatment or “rehabilitation” as the act calls it. The program is for nurses who self-report; are referred to the alternative to discipline program by the board; or sign an initial agreement with the program coordinator to oversee the nurse who failed a test.
To be referred by the board, the nurse must not have any prior discipline flags on their record.
Refusing a Drug Test as a Nurse: What Happens?
Lots of nurses want to know if they’ll lose their licenses for refusing to take a drug test. The short answer is yes, you can lose your license if you refuse to take a requested drug test.
However, it is a little more complicated than that. If a nurse has been asked to take a drug test by their employer, refusing is a violation of the nurse practice act. The employer will likely report the refusal to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. This will lead to an investigation into the nurse’s work history.
If a nurse refuses to take a drug test, the Board will send a letter to the nurse with a request for the nurse to surrender their license for a 1-year period.
Should I surrender my Nursing License?
In most cases, the nurse should not surrender their license. Especially in cases where the only violation of the nurse practice act is the refusal of a drug test. When refusal to take a drug test is the basis for the violation, a consent agreement with the board can likely be reached where the nurse does not lose their license. Instead, they are placed on probation and will have to comply with certain rules.
What about Consent Agreements?
The down side to entering a consent agreement is the nurse will have their license flagged with a violation. However, as of November 2018, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing has adopted a new system. The Alternative to Discipline Act allows a nurse to enter a probationary type period and complete certain tasks assigned to them by the Board in exchange for not having their license flagged. One of the requirements to be eligible for the Alternative to Discipline Program is the nurse must self-report the violation. There are other requirements that go along with self-reporting, which is why it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as any potential issues with your nursing license appear.
Because your nursing license is so important, you should hire a lawyer to help you defend yourself against an alleged violation of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing rules. There are many reasons why you might not have to surrender your license, and it is critical that you understand your rights. You must find someone who is experienced in negotiating with the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.
Because your nursing license is so important, you should hire a lawyer to help to defend yourself against an alleged violation of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing rules. There are many reasons why you would not have to surrender your license, and it is critical that you understand your rights. You must find someone who is experienced in negotiating with the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.
Other related Blawg Links:
Nursing Complaints and What to do