The arrest of a Texas nurse who was driving while intoxicated (DWI) on her way home from her hospital shift highlights the serious consequences nurses around the country face for drinking on duty and for DWI offenses that occur while they are off-duty.
The hospital staff asked the nurse to leave work after they saw her stumble through the hallways. Staff notified police that the nurse left the hospital by car and was possibly intoxicated. Police saw the nurse's car driving only on two wheels, titled on one side.
Nurses Who Drink on Duty Face Serious Consequences
Most state boards around the country have strict rules about nurses' use of alcohol while on the job, and will impose serious consequences on those who violate these rules.
This is because state nursing boards are responsible for protecting the public. They investigate allegations of nurses' misconduct and discipline them accordingly. Nurses who misuse alcohol while on the job pose a danger to their patients and the general public and face serious penalties.
For example, in South Carolina, nurses who work when their “judgment or physical ability is impaired by alcohol” risk license revocation, suspension, and restriction.
Nurses Face Serious Consequences for DWI Arrests and Convictions
State nursing boards may discipline nurses who are arrested or convicted of DWI — even if the offenses occur outside of working hours. This is because many boards will discipline nurses for any “unprofessional conduct,” including incidents that occur while nurses are off-duty.
A California court upheld the suspension of a nurse who pleaded no contest to a DWI offense she committed when she was off-duty.
The court found that the DWI offense showed a lack of personal and professional judgment, threatened public safety, and demonstrated the nurse's disregard for the medical and legal implications of driving while intoxicated.
Nurses' convictions of any crimes — whether or not alcohol is involved — are grounds for discipline by state nursing boards.
Alternative to Discipline Programs May Help Nurses Who Use Alcohol at Work Keep Their Jobs
Many state boards realize that nurses are under tremendous pressure and often offer alternative to discipline (ADP) programs to nurses who are accused of using alcohol on the job. These programs are not considered discipline and help nurses rehabilitate themselves and keep their jobs.
In Oregon, for example, when the state nursing board receives a report that a nurse is using alcohol on the job, they conduct an investigation into the matter and determine whether to dismiss the case, discipline the nurse, or allow the nurse to enter the state's ADP, which is known as the Health Professionals' Service Program. If a nurse successfully completes the program, their alcohol incident will not be made public.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help Nurses Who Are Accused of Using Alcohol at Work or Are Involved in DWI Offenses
Joseph D. Lento and his knowledgeable Professional License Defense Team have years of experience successfully defending nurses around the country in state board disciplinary actions. They can help nurses who have been accused of using alcohol at work or are involved in DWI offenses vigorously defend themselves and protect their jobs. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.