The Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) was created in the early ’80s in Florida to respond to the rising concerns of impaired nurses that posed a great danger to public welfare. The main culprit was alcohol addiction however healthcare providers have been caught on numerous attempts diverting drugs from hospital pharmacies. However, the Florida-based program has a different aspect that can affect one’s career permanently. Should nurses get legal help when sent to the IPN program?
What Happens When A Nurse Is Reported To A Board of Nursing for Suspected Substance Use Disorder?
Here’s the sequence of events that takes place when an employer reports a nurse to the respective state board of nursing.
Opening Of Investigations
The state board usually has forensic nurses that can conduct drug tests or verify results from previous screenings. If the accused healthcare provider also has a DUI, the investigation team will contact the police to get more information about the situation. Employers have to send nurses under investigation on leave until the team completes its analysis.
Interviewing Colleagues That Work With The Accused Nurse
The state board will send investigators to interview nurses and other medical staff that work with the accused nurse. This process enables the investigators to find out whether the suspect put the lives of colleagues or patients in danger of harm.
Delivery Of Verdict
At this stage, the investigation and witness interviews reach a conclusive ending. The disciplinary committee decides the punishment based on information that was uncovered during investigations. Sometimes first-time offenders pay hefty fines and sign a probation deal however the state board makes sure that the violation doesn’t appear on the record.
Alternative To Discipline Program For Nurses
An Alternative to discipline program is whereby the state board discreetly sends the suspected healthcare provider to an anonymous rehabilitation center, however, their license to practice remains intact. This is unlike the IPN program where nurse licenses get suspended or placed under probation.
The fact that a nurse can come out of detoxification and resume their careers immediately makes it possible for individuals to start a new life elsewhere. Especially where the healthcare provider has a high likelihood of relapse due to having friends or relatives that are heavy drug abusers.
Should A Nurse Consult With A Lawyer Before Joining The IPN Program?
Employers don’t like it when state boards send nurses to the IPN program because the consequences are grave. There’s no guarantee that the accused healthcare providers will resume their careers, and even if they did, the probation conditions imposed are unreasonable. That’s why it’s necessary to consult with a lawyer before signing any agreements with the state board of nurses.
Lawyers offer help in the following ways.
Offering Guidance When Providing Samples For Drug Tests
Lawyers offer guidance on drug testing criteria that state boards use during investigations. It’s important to know the time frame used to check substance abuse to avoid unfair judgment. The attorneys also offer advice on how to respond to doctor’s questions during the drug test to avoid self-incrimination.
Providing Legal Representation When Nurse Is Accused Of Drug-Related Offences
In some situations, the nurse might also be accused of sexual harassment in addition to substance abuse. Such allegations are serious because there’s a possibility of spending time in jail since sexual harassment is considered a criminal offense. In this situation, a lawyer can help the suspected healthcare provider in several ways.
The attorney can hire expert witnesses who are either forensic nurses or gynecologists to cross-check medical reports filed by the plaintiff. He or she will also ensure that the suspect isn’t forced to submit blood or hair samples for forensic analysis.
Negotiating Conditions That Appear On The Stipulation Agreement
A stipulation agreement is a document from the state board of nursing that explains the conditions, which an accused nurse has to fulfill to get their medical license reinstated. However, most conditions are unreasonable, for instance, consenting to random drug tests for the next five years.
A lawyer enables the accused to receive a fair judgment that provides the best chances of resuming their careers after completing the IPN program.
Hiring A Lawyer To Represent You In An IPN Hearing Isn’t A Bad Idea
It’s important to have a lawyer present with you to ensure you don’t get tricked into providing samples for unauthorized forensic tests.