Drug-related accusations are among the most serious you may face as a nurse. They cover a wide range of errors and intentional acts of wrongdoing, but in every case, your next step is the same: contact Barb Forshier at Forshier Law, LLC, your nurse defense lawyer. The future of your career is at stake, and you deserve representation that has your best interests in mind.
Theft and Related Allegations
When you receive allegations from the Minnesota Board of Nursing, you need to read them carefully to understand the nature of the allegations and what is at stake if the allegations are true. All of these claims involve the mishandling of controlled substances:
- Diversion. Diversion refers to taking medications that are intended for patients, either with the intent of using them yourself, giving them to others, or selling them. Any situation that involves a care provider diverting a patient’s medication to someone else may result in diversion allegations. Contact a license defense attorney immediately before you admit to diversion and give up your constitutional right to remain silent. Often a nurse will face serious criminal charges.
- False documentation of medication administration. This, much like diversion, is a serious claim that can impact a patient’s quality of care and pain levels. Falsely documenting medication administration can lead to disciplinary actions from the Board of Nursing. These allegations may involve documenting medication that was not given, documenting on someone else’s behalf, documenting the incorrect medication, or documenting for the wrong patient.
- Trying to get unauthorized prescriptions filled. These allegations often relate to stolen prescription pads, which caregivers then use to write their own prescriptions. They are often caught when pharmacists realize the prescriptions are falsified.
- Using medications in a way that leaves you impaired at work. Many people rely on a variety of medications to maintain their physical or mental health, but using these medications improperly or not as prescribed can lead to issues with work. If a nurse takes prescribed or unprescribed medications in a way that endangers her patients and makes the nurse impaired at work, they will likely face nursing board complaints.
- Drinking or otherwise putting yourself in an impaired state at work and while not at work. Being impaired at work is unprofessional in any industry, but it is particularly dangerous for those who work in healthcare. The Board of Nursing often takes swift action against nurses who report for work impaired. Also be aware that any conviction for DUI/DWI may lead to Nursing Board action if they have reason to believe you have a substance use disorder.
How to Avoid Drug-Related Allegations
As a nurse, you likely received extensive training on mishandling of medications, diversion, and other issues throughout your education. This intense focus on medications and substance abuse is for good reason. Nurses have extensive access to medication, far more than those granted to professionals in other industries. Furthermore, they are also under an enormous amount of stress in their careers. This constant stress and pressure, combined with access to pharmaceuticals, may create an environment where an individual chooses unhealthy coping mechanisms.
The best way to avoid drug-related accusations is to be aware of your mental state, burnout, and stress levels whenever you are working. If you are in the middle of a stressful stretch at work, check on yourself—are you taking time for yourself? Are you resting well? Are you getting the nutrition you need and using your time off to take care of yourself?
If you see any red flags—drinking more than you normally would, not sleeping enough, taking your medications more often than recommended or prescribed, or dreading your next shift—you need to take proactive action to avoid burnout and avoid the lure of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Additionally, you should double-check or even triple-check every single task you do that involves controlled substances. If you notice anything amiss, such as missing pills, an unlocked medicine cabinet, or a coworker who is not following protocol when it comes to medication administration, report it to your supervisor immediately. It is easy for a busy nurse to write off those observations as a simple mistake or assume they misinterpreted something they saw. However, if these accusations turn out to be evidence of drug mismanagement by another care provider, it could come back to hurt you. If medication counts are off when you access a cabinet and you don’t report it, that will look extremely suspicious if you are questioned about it during an investigation.
What to Do If You Have Been Accused of Diversion or Working While Impaired
For some who receive a notice of allegations, there comes a strange feeling of relief. Those who are not in control of their substance abuse disorder or who have found themselves more and more controlled by the drugs they use often feel that getting “caught” is a way to receive help. For others, these allegations bring fear and uncertainty. In some cases, the nurse accused of diversion or other mishandling of medications has not actually done anything wrong.
Regardless of which circumstances you’re facing, you need to reach out to a nurse license defense lawyer in Minnesota to discuss your next steps. Board of Nursing allegations can prevent you from working in health care for the rest of your career, and you must do everything you can to protect your license and the future of your career.
Frequently Asked Questions
The doctor prescribed two pain pills, but the patient only wants one—can I just give them one?
Discuss the patient’s preferences with the prescribing doctor. You must give medications as prescribed. If a patient is prescribed two pills and you only give them one, this could raise a red flag that you pocketed the second pill. Additionally, you will be charged with practicing medicine. You must follow doctors order precisely. If the patient only wants one pill and two are ordered, you must call the doctor for a new order.
I received a DUI charge, do I need to report that to the licensing board?
You likely have to report your DUI to the Board of Nursing, but do not do this alone. Retain a nursing license defense attorney to review legal requirements and figure out the best way to move forward. Each state has different reporting requirements so be sure to seek legal counsel of call your Board of Nursing.
My patient says their pain is only a 2 out of 10. However, I believe their pain is higher. Can I medicate with a narcotic based on what I believe?
Going against the medication prescribed by the patient’s physician not only takes you outside your scope of practice, it can look like you are misusing medication. Even if you are trying to act in the best interests of a patient, you must follow all orders precisely and remain within your scope of practice to avoid disciplinary action.
My patient is going home after a day surgery procedure. They deny pain now, but I know they will have a lot of pain later. Can I give them preemptive pain medication?
No. Not without a physician order. As a nurse, determining which prescriptions to give and when is not within your scope of practice. The prescribing doctor has their own reasons for each medication they choose to prescribe (or not prescribe). Nurses who are not APRNs may only implement patient-specific orders or condition-specific protocols.
Call Forshier Law Now
You have put so much time and hard work into becoming a nurse—do not risk it now by trying to handle your own legal defense. We are here to help. Reach out to Forshier Law, LLC at 612-236-5261 or get in touch online to discuss your options now.