What Can I Do if I Am A Nurse with a Substance Use Disorder?
By Priscilla Lord, Esq.
This past year has been a tough one on all of us. The stress and fear of COVID has brought us so many losses as a country: lost jobs, lost apartments and homes, food insecurity, isolation from family and friends, mask wearing, and the death of over 500,000 loved ones. Figuring out how to cope with this onslaught of stressors has been difficult for everyone.
COVID has been particularly hard on our healthcare workers, especially doctors and nurses working on the frontlines of this pandemic in hospital intensive care units. There have been staffing shortages, long hours, PPE shortages, shortages of medical supplies, combined with the politicization of mask-wearing and the pandemic.
It can be easy to fall into bad coping behaviors such as drinking alcohol or using drugs when under incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty. These negative coping mechanisms are particularly concerning and destructive for those who work as nurses or other medical professionals because patients are vulnerable and rely on their caregivers being in a healthy and sober state of mind. For nurses, the misuse of the mood-altering substances can seriously impact the ability to practice safely, could lead to broader mental health challenges and have serious consequences for their livelihood.
If you have identified that your misuse of mood-altering substances is interfering with your job performance, relationships, or your state of mind, it may be the time to seek support and better health. Thankfully, Minnesota is widely known for its excellent substance use treatment facilities and resources. There are many options in the Twin Cities and throughout the state of Minnesota to help people who suffer from chemical dependency.
Below are some resources that are available to help connect people with programs that are available in their area:
Help.org is a community organization dedicated to empowering people suffering from substance abuse addiction with tools and resources to start their personal journey toward recovery. We create and publish comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources that have been featured and referenced by many governmental agencies and organizations across the web. Drug and Alcohol Abuse Rehab, Resources, and Support | Help.org
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the nation's largest nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. The Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care for youth and adults. About Us and Our Mission | Hazelden Betty Ford
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous There are hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous gatherings to attend all over the state of Minnesota at various times and days. Many meetings are being held remotely at this time as well due to COVID, making them accessible from anywhere with a smartphone and internet connection. https://aaminnesota.org/NA
WHAT LICENSED PROFESSIONALS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOW MISUSE OF MOOD ALTERING SUBSTANCES CAN AFFECT THEIR LICENSE.
Most licensed professionals are required by their practice act to remove themselves from practice if they are unable to do so safely and effectively. If you are a nurse and you have found yourself struggling with a substance use disorder or addiction that impacts your ability to safely practice, it is your responsibility to remove yourself from your practice and address your substance use disorder.
If a report is made against you regarding substance use issues or medication diversion at work to the Minnesota Board of Nursing, the following actions will begin:
- The Board of Nursing will start an investigation, which sometimes requires that the nurse appear for an interview by an investigator with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.
- After the investigation is completed, the investigation report is sent to the Minnesota Board of Nursing Complaint Review Panel for review.
- If the Board Complaint Review Panel feels that evidence is presented that the nurse may have an addiction issue, they will usually send the nurse a Notice of Conference requiring that a written response be submitted to the allegations and an appearance at a Conference with the Board's Complaint Review Panel. The Panel will ask questions directly to the nurse about the allegations of substance use disorder.
- If the Complaint Review Panel determines that the nurse does have a substance use disorder, they will usually require that they participate in the Health Professional Services Program (HPSP), the Minnesota Board of Nursing's monitoring agency. The HPSP will require that the nurse submit random toxicology screens and participate in some form of chemical dependency treatment and/or support group. If the nurse does not comply with the requirements of the HPSP, the Minnesota Board of Nursing will probably suspend the nurse's license until it is determined that he or she is healthy and able to safely return to work.
At Lord + Heinlein we have represented over 200 clients before the state of Minnesota licensing boards, including over 125 nurses before the Minnesota Board of Nursing. We will prepare you and assist you throughout the process and get the best possible outcome. We understand how important your livelihood is to you. At Lord + Heinlein, we are your powerful legal voice. Call us today at 612-333-5673 for a free consultation.