Help for Arkansas Nurses Facing License Discipline for Substance Abuse Issues

Nursing in Arkansas can be a personally and professionally rewarding profession. The state's fair climate, natural beauty, charming cities and towns, and warm and friendly population can all add to the profession's financial rewards and its satisfaction in serving others through healing. You've made a good choice in pursuing nursing practice in Arkansas, whether you work in a hospital, clinic, or residential setting in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, Rogers, Conway, Bentonville, Pine Bluffs, Hot Springs, or another of the state's cities, towns, or settlements. But nursing is seldom easy. When access to medications and professional stresses tempt a nurse into substance abuse issues, license disciplinary charges may follow.  

When an Arkansas nurse faces substance abuse allegations, disciplinary officials may urge the nurse to participate in the Arkansas Nurses Assistance Program (ArNAP) as an alternative to discipline. Watch out, though, for the risks associated with the ArNAP program and other alternatives to discipline programs. Non-compliance can lead to loss of your license. Retain the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team to advise you on program participation, negotiate better program terms, or simply defend the disciplinary allegations so that you don't get caught in a web of arduous program terms and conditions. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now to protect your Arkansas nursing license and practice in the face of substance abuse allegations. 

Nursing Substance Abuse Issues Nationwide 

Nurses don't have it easy. The Journal of Nursing Regulation publishes a study confirming high substance abuse rates among nurses due in part to the profession's extraordinary demands. The stress, anxiety, and other mental and physical health challenges of nursing can contribute to self-medication and addiction issues. Demanding physicians, difficult patients and patient family members, terminal, infectious, and other debilitating diseases, and odd hours can all increase the natural stresses of a highly technical profession. Injuries from lifting and turning patients or from infections or medical devices and materials can lead to chronic and acute pain. Nurses have plenty of excuses for self-medication with alcohol and drugs. About one in five nurses face a substance abuse problem. 

Ready access to patient medications and hospital or clinic anesthetic substances contributes to dependency and addiction issues among nurses nationwide, not just in Arkansas. Access can cause temptation. Nurses also have substantial medical knowledge regarding the effect of pharmaceuticals on mood. Combine knowledge with access, and nurses once again find themselves self-medicating through illicit use or abuse of controlled substances. Disciplinary charges may follow. If you have a dependency or addiction issue or otherwise face substance abuse allegations, let us help you defend and defeat the charges while evaluating the wisdom of resorting to the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program (ArNAP). 

Nursing Substance Abuse Disciplinary Triggers 

Nurses likely face substance abuse-related disciplinary charges more often than workers in other fields and professions for several reasons. Recognize that you do not necessarily control whether your substance abuse issue will reach the attention of disciplinary officials. Your close work in proximity to highly observant patients and their family members, watchful physicians and nursing supervisors, and close professional colleagues may lead to suspicions that you are intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by drugs. Changes in your dress, demeanor, or physical or mental health from dependency or addiction issues can likewise lead to substance abuse allegations. Healthcare workers generally have a duty to report impaired practice by other healthcare workers, meaning you'll likely face disciplinary investigation if anyone in your professional community suspects your issue. 

Even if your professional community does not notice signs and symptoms of your substance abuse, dependency, or addiction, your issue may lead to motor vehicle accidents, drunk driving arrests, disorderly conduct arrests, civil infractions for open intoxicants, or similar events and circumstances beyond your control. Disciplinary officials and nurse employers are on the lookout for those events and will follow up with an investigation. Even divorce allegations, child custody disputes, and domestic violence issues can reveal a nurse's substance abuse issue and lead to disciplinary charges. You don't control your substance abuse issue. Retain our skilled and experienced attorneys when you face related disciplinary charges and need to consider the Arkansas Nurses Assistance Program (ArNAP). 

Arkansas Nursing Practice Regulation 

Section 17-87-101 of the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act requires that every nurse intending to practice in the state first obtain a license. The Act authorizes the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to set the standards, terms, and conditions for issuing, renewing, and otherwise regulating nursing licenses. You must have a license in good standing to practice nursing in the state. If you lose your license to substance abuse allegations, you will lose your nursing practice and employment. Section 17-87-309 of the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act expressly authorizes the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to “deny, suspend, revoke, or limit any license or privilege to practice nursing” in the state on any of the Act's specified grounds. Don't doubt the State Board's authority to discipline your license. Get the help of our attorneys to defend the charges while advising you on whether to enter the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program (ArNAP). 

Arkansas Nurse Substance Abuse Discipline 

Section 17-87-309 of the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act authorizes the State Board of Nursing to discipline a nurse who “is habitually intemperate or is addicted to the use of habit-forming drugs.” Related sections that a nurse's dependency, addiction, or substance abuse may trigger include when a nurse “is unfit or incompetent by reason of negligence, habits, or other causes,” “is mentally incompetent,” or “is guilty of unprofessional conduct.” The State Board of Nursing has plenty of statutory authority to proceed against a nurse who exhibits a substance abuse issue relating to nursing practice. Arkansas State Board of Nursing administrative rules repeat and carry out that statutory authority to discipline for impaired practice and related substance abuse issues. Don't dispute that authority. Instead, get our help to defend the charges and evaluate ArNAP participation. 

Arkansas Nurse Disciplinary Actions 

The Arkansas State Board of Nursing publishes its disciplinary actions online, meaning you won't be able to hide your discipline from your employer, patients, professional colleagues, or friends and family members. Those reports disclose the name, license number, misconduct, and sanction of the involved nurses. Those actions include examples of nurses who practiced while intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by drugs. The threat of disciplinary action against you for substance abuse issues affecting your nursing performance is real. Get our help rather than ignore or minimize the charges or consent to participation in an alternative to discipline program that sets you up for failure. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program (ArNAP) 

The Arkansas state legislature adopted the Alternative to Discipline Act in 2017 with three purposes: (1) to protect the public against impaired nurses; (2) to preserve members of the nursing profession for public service; and (3) to identify and treat licensed nurses who suffer from impairment. Section 17-87-803 of the Alternative to Discipline Act expressly authorizes the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to establish an alternative to a discipline program. Under that section, the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program is “a plan approved by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing for intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation of an impaired nurse.” The same section defines impairment as “inability … to practice with reasonable safety and skill” because of “a diagnosed substance use disorder or any diagnosed mental or physical health condition.” The program is thus available to those without a substance abuse diagnosis, too, if they have another impairing condition. The following Sections 17-87-804 to 17-87-807 of the Act detail the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program's statutory authority to impose terms and conditions for your participation and compliance. We can help you evaluate those terms and conditions. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Conditions 

The most significant and concerning condition for you to participate in the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program is that you relinquish your nursing license. The Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-806 states that the participating nurse must “place his or her nursing license on inactive status” until a program treatment provider decides that the nurse can practice safely. You must give up your license and stop nursing until the program says otherwise. That one condition alone should give you serious concern over participating. You will not control if and when you get your license back, and you will not be able to practice nursing until you do so. Other conditions for Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program participation under the same section include: 

  • that you admit in a sworn affidavit that you have violated the Nurse Practice Act; 
  • that you complete an evaluation by a provider whom the program identifies; 
  • that you accept the treatment plan the provider determines; 
  • that you sign the program's written plan certifying that you will comply with its treatment plan; 
  • that you also agree to complete the disciplinary officials' conditions for program participation; 
  • that you pay all costs not only for your treatment but also your monitoring; 
  • that you use only program-approved evaluation and treatment providers, facilities, counselors, and laboratories; and 
  • that you do anything else the Board of Nursing may determine. 

Discipline for Failure to Comply with ArNAP 

The Arkansas Board of Nursing may discipline you for failing to complete the ArNAP program. The Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-807(b) states expressly that program participation “does not preclude the board from commencing disciplinary action against a nurse who is terminated from or fails to comply with the alternative to discipline program.” So, when you enter the program, you may be entering a trap that increases your risk of discipline if you fail to comply. Yet even if you do meet all program terms and conditions, you may still face discipline. The Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-807(a) states expressly that participation “is not a defense to any disciplinary action that may be taken by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.” The statute itself says it: your discipline may result whether you participate and succeed or participate and fail. Get our advice before entering the program. Its conditions and risks may severely impact or even curtail your nursing practice. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Confidentiality 

You might hope that your ArNAP program participation would at least be confidential. Indeed, the Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-808(b)(1) promises the confidentiality of program records. However, Section 17-87-808(b)(2) admits that the board will introduce program records in its own disciplinary proceeding and produce program records on request. Section 17-87-808(b)(3) then further admits that your program records will be available to the board and its staff, any nurse employer, any treating healthcare provider, nursing education programs, and other state nursing boards. That's just about everyone who may matter to your nursing practice. And as rigorous as the program's testing and treatment requirements are likely to be, anyone, depending on your schedule and presence, like your employer, colleagues, patients, and family members, will probably quickly find out about your participation. Do not expect confidentiality to last even when initially promised. 

Entering the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program 

You have several ways of ending up in the Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program. The Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-803(3) states that you may refer yourself to the program without any Board of Nursing involvement. Seriously question why you would ever do so, insofar as you'd have to meet the above program terms including giving up your license until the program's providers say you can have your license back. It appears that you would be far wiser to simply get your own substance abuse, addiction, and dependency treatment from your own chosen providers without suffering any loss of your license and risking long-term or permanent license loss. But you may self-refer. The statute says so. 

The Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-803(3) also states that the Arkansas Board of Nursing may refer you to the ArNAP program. If patients, their family members, colleagues, your employer, or another acquaintance of yours reports your suspected substance abuse to the Board's disciplinary officials, those officials may determine that you must or should participate in the program. They may refer you. But you may instead have a colleague, employer, or other professional acquainted with your substance abuse issue contact the ArNAP administrator, asking that the administrator invite you to participate. In any case, get our help to evaluate whether the program is for you. You may be far better off fighting any associated disciplinary charges than risking entering the program at all its risks and costs. 

Negotiating ArNAP Program Terms 

You can see from the above discussion just how onerous ArNAP program terms and conditions may be. They may be burdensome in terms of time, expensive in terms of monetary cost, and risky in terms of relinquishing your license, perhaps never to get it back or to get it back only after a long delay. Yet, with our help, you may have some opportunity to negotiate better terms than the program's administrator first offers. 

Under the Alternative to Discipline Act's Section 17-87-806, the ArNAP program administrator and disciplinary officials working with the ArNAP program must present to you a written agreement for program participation. That agreement is like a contract or covenant between you and the Board of Nursing, with which you must comply. But the first agreement that the program presents to you may not be the one agreement you should sign. The program's administrator will likely work from a template of typical terms. But just because the last participant signed such an agreement does not mean the agreement is right for you. You may be able to negotiate better terms. 

You would not likely enter into an agreement to buy a home or business or otherwise commit yourself to a long-term, expensive, and risk-laden agreement without the review and advice of wise counsel. An ArNAP program agreement is no different. You are relinquishing your most valuable asset, which is your professional license on which your job, career, and financial future depend. Get our review and advice before you sign an ArNAP agreement, risking your nursing career. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Length 

The Alternative to Discipline Act does not expressly state how long your ArNAP program participation may last. Don't, though, expect it to last just a few weeks or months. Other states with similar programs acknowledge that they may require program participation for a period of years, even up to as long as five years, with the prospect for continued monitoring and program renewal. One year, two years, or longer is a long time to carry the costs, risks, and other burdens of ArNAP program participation, evaluation, treatment, counseling, drug and alcohol testing, monitoring, and reporting. Don't commit yourself unadvisedly to a disciplinary substance abuse treatment program that may soon feel more like a prison term than a helpful resource. Beware of exaggerated and false assurances that you control your program outcome. Program participation means you place your future in the hands of evaluators, providers, administrators, and disciplinary officials. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Issues 

The above discussion should have alerted you to serious concerns over your voluntary participation in the Arkansas Board of Nursing's ArNAP alternative to discipline program. You should now see why you should have our attorneys' skilled and experienced advice and representation before you enter into any such agreement. You may instead find it far better that we simply help you defend against the disciplinary allegations relating to your substance abuse. You have the right to due process when facing disciplinary accusations. Let us help. Consider the following summary of the above issues with the ArNAP program's risks, burdens, and costs. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Practice Issues 

Your immediate issue with ArNAP participation is that you must stop your nursing practice after relinquishing your license to the program's providers. You won't be able to work at your nursing practice or earn your nursing income. How, then, will you pay for the program's costs while maintaining your household? You will also have to notify your employer and patients. You may lose your job and not get that job back even if you comply with the program. And you won't know when you will get your license back because the program's provider will decide. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Non-Compliance Issues 

Your next big issue with ArNAP participation is that you may not be able or willing to comply with the burdensome and expensive terms and conditions of ArNAP program participation. You may miss appointments because of illness, transportation issues, or scheduling conflicts, making it appear that you are not committed to your recovery and that you should face discipline instead. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Substantive Issues 

Your next big issue with ArNAP participation is that you may not need the evaluation, treatment, counseling, testing, and monitoring that the program requires. It may quickly become obvious to you that you are simply jumping through useless bureaucratic hoops that provide you with no benefit in your substance abuse recovery. The program may instead burden and stress you so as to stall and inhibit your recovery. 

Arkansas Nurses Alternative Program Procedural Issues 

Your final issue with ArNAP participation is that you don't face a level playing field and fair procedures when submitting your health, wellness, and nursing practice future to program and board administrators. They hold all the cards. They have all the discretion. If, instead, you challenge the disciplinary charges with our skilled and experienced help, then the Board of Nursing must offer you due process and a fair hearing before an independent decision-maker. You get none of that due process if you enter into an ArNAP agreement. 

Premier Arkansas Nursing License Defense 

The Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team is available across Arkansas to help you decide whether to participate in the Arkansas Board of Nursing's ArNAP program or instead to fight any associated disciplinary charges. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now to retain our Professional License Defense Team. 


Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are committed to answering your questions about Physician License Defense, Nursing License Defense, Pharmacist License Defense, Psychologist and Psychiatrist License Defense, Dental License Defense, Chiropractic License Defense, Real Estate License Defense, Professional Counseling License Defense, and Other Professional Licenses law issues nationwide.
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