Help for Nebraska Nurses Facing License Issues from Substance Abuse Problems

Nursing in Nebraska is a privilege and a rewarding career opportunity. It is also a challenge. Nebraska nurses face the same work stresses as nurses practicing elsewhere. Nursing is specialized, technical, and demanding, often done on disruptive schedules for patients suffering from difficulty or even deadly health issues. Many nurses respond to acute and chronic workplace stress with self-medication and overindulgence of drugs and alcohol. Access to prescription medication further tempts nurses. If you have substance abuse, dependency, or addiction issues, the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program may be available to you for intervention and diversion from license discipline. But beware of program participation, which can carry more risks than rewards. Retain the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team to help you evaluate program participation and defend and defeat your disciplinary charges. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now to retain our Professional License Defense Team's skilled and experienced representation. Protect your Nebraska nursing license from disciplinary action related to substance abuse issues. 

Nursing Substance Abuse, Dependency, and Addiction 

Nurses everywhere face similar issues with substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. The stresses and demands of nursing combine with ready access to prescription medications and other anesthetics and drugs to increase substance abuse among nurses to higher rates than in the general population, according to the Journal of Nursing Regulation. As many as eighteen percent of nurses, or nearly one in five, suffer from some degree of substance abuse, dependency, or addiction to either alcohol or drugs. Nurses working in hospitals or other healthcare facilities often have access to and responsibility for pharmaceuticals. That access increases the temptation to divert and abuse medications. Nurses also have greater knowledge than the general population about the salutary effects of those medications. Nurses face significant workplace stress, not just the strict requirements of the profession and the duty to follow doctors' orders but also constant interaction with suffering and, too often, dying patients. The pandemic significantly added to those stresses, according to a National Library of Medicine study.  Get our help to avoid losing your license to disciplinary charges related to your substance abuse issues.  

Nursing Substance Abuse Disciplinary Triggers 

In the general population, substance abuse issues may remain latent for many years, hidden by individual practices and circumstances. In the nursing profession, substance abuse issues often reveal themselves quickly, despite the suffering nurse's efforts to conceal and minimize the issues. Medication inventories may reveal medications the nurse has diverted. Close observation of nurses by doctors, supervising nurses, nurse colleagues, nurse assistants, and patients and their family members may lead to the reporting of telltale signs of substance abuse, like impaired or intoxicated practice, slurred words, dizziness, and dress and demeanor issues. Drunk driving charges, criminal charges, civil infractions for open intoxicants, disorderly conduct, and other misbehavior associated with overindulgence in alcohol or the use of illicit drugs may also trigger disciplinary investigations. If you have a substance abuse issue while practicing nursing, you face a substantial likelihood of discovery, whether your issue is impacting your practice and threatening patient safety or not. Get our help if you face disciplinary charges. 

Regulation of Nebraska Nursing Practice 

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services licenses nurses wishing to practice within the state under rules established by the state's Board of Nursing. The Nebraska Nurse Practice Act authorizes the Nebraska Board of Nursing not only to make licensing rules but also to establish the standards of professionalism and minimum competence for maintaining a nurse license against disciplinary charges. The Nurse Practice Act also requires that you obtain and maintain a license in good standing if you wish to continue your nursing practice. The Act specifically gives the Board of Nursing the authority to revoke or suspend your nursing license, to place you on probation, or to impose any other disciplinary action, including terms and conditions for retaining or regaining your license. The Board of Nursing's rules prohibit and sanction the diversion of controlled substances for personal use, incompetent and impaired practice, and other unprofessional conduct related to substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. Get our help if you face Board of Nursing allegations of this kind. 

Nebraska Nurse Disciplinary Actions 

Nebraska nurses are no exception to the unusual stresses occurring over the past several years within the nursing profession. Nebraska lost nearly ten percent of its nurses between the years 2018 and 2022, according to a Nebraska Center for Nursing biennial report. Nebraska nurses are also no exception to the rash of disciplinary actions against nurses over substance abuse issues. Nebraska's Board of Nursing posts its disciplinary actions online. Those public records show that the Board regularly disciplines LPNs, RNs, and its other licensed and certified nurses for all manner of misconduct, specifically including impaired practice, drug diversions, and other misconduct related to substance abuse issues. The online records give not only the nurse's name and license number but also the date of discipline and the disciplinary wrongs. You won't, in other words, be able to hide your discipline from your nursing employer, colleagues, supervisors, subordinates, patients, and other members of your professional network. Everyone, including your family members and friends, is likely to know. Get our help defending disciplinary charges. 

Nebraska Nursing Intervention and Diversion Program 

You may have an intervention and discipline diversion program available to you as a Nebraska nurse with a substance abuse issue. Acting under its legislative authority to regulate the nursing profession and other healthcare professions, Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services contracts with the nonprofit Methodist Health System's Best Care Employee Assistance Program to operate the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program (NE LAP). The Licensee Assistance Program is open to nurses, physicians, and other licensed healthcare professionals in the state if they qualify for the Program's resources and services. Qualification for diversion from disciplinary proceedings may depend on whether your substance abuse issue has already resulted in impaired practice and patient harm. Let our attorneys help you evaluate whether you qualify for Licensee Assistance Program services, whether the Program is appropriate for you, and how to handle any related disciplinary issues. 

Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Participation 

While the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program does not publish its program participation requirements, the usual requirements are something you should seriously consider. The Licensee Assistance Program's officials must comply with the mandatory requirements of Nebraska Statute § 38-1,125 to report your substance abuse issue to disciplinary authorities if they believe you have practiced while “impaired by alcohol, controlled substances, mind-altering substances, or physical, mental, or emotional disability….” Your access to the program may trigger disciplinary charges if you do not already face them. The program may also require that you abstain from all alcohol and drugs, temporarily surrender your nursing license, treat with providers the program chooses, and submit to strict monitoring requirements, including drug and alcohol testing for an extended period up to years. Entering the Licensee Assistance Program doesn't mean a free ride. You may be severely complicating your professional practice and personal life when submitting to the program. Get our help in evaluating the program and your better options. 

Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Features 

The Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program provides services through its nonprofit affiliate, Methodist Health System's Best Care Employee Assistance Program. While Methodist Health System addiction specialists may provide many of the services, the Best Care EAP may also refer you to other providers. While the Licensee Assistance Program touts its confidentiality, its webpage confirms that Best Care EAP administrators and other service providers will report you to the state's disciplinary authorities not only if you represent a threat to patients but also “if the licensee fails to comply with his or her NE LAP treatment plan.” You are not dealing with your own treatment providers when participating in the Licensee Assistance Program. You are dealing with adjuncts of state disciplinary regulators. Your Licensee Assistance Program may include these other common features: 

  • Best Care EAP substance abuse, dependency, and addiction evaluation; 
  • Best Care EAP development of your dependency treatment plan; 
  • treatment by Methodist Health System providers; 
  • Best Care EAP monitoring of your strict plan compliance; 
  • Methodist Health System drug and alcohol testing; 
  • that you and your providers complete Best Care EAP logs and reports;  
  • that you pay for services not falling within free Best Care EAP services; and 
  • Board of Nursing is tracking your compliance to consider your discipline. 

Entering Nebraska Substance Abuse Diversion 

Nurses generally enter an intervention and disciplinary diversion program like the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program in one of three ways. You may enter the program on your own, believing that doing so is in your best interest, before you incur any disciplinary charges or have any problems at work. Alternatively, your employer representatives, physicians with whom you work, nursing supervisor, nurse colleagues, nurse aides, and other co-workers may witness or suspect your impaired practice under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in which case they may refer you to the Licensee Assistance Program. Colleague referral is a common means of program entry to forestall further concerns and reports. The third means of entry involves disciplinary officials encouraging, instructing, or ordering you to enter the program to divert disciplinary charges. In theory, diversion could be a good thing. The practice, though, is much more complicated. Get our help evaluating before you enter the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program. 

Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Plans 

Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program participation requires that you submit to an evaluation, treatment, and monitoring plan. Participation is not a la carte. You don't get to pick and choose the evaluation, services, and monitoring you think you need or from which you believe you might benefit. Best Care EAP programs, like other substance abuse evaluation and treatment regimens, must generally be comprehensive to be effective, or so program officials generally represent and believe. Plans of this type generally include the following terms, often without program participant choice: 

  • that you appear for examination and evaluation by mental and physical health and addiction professionals at the time, place, and location they choose; 
  • that you participate consistently and completely in all recommended treatments by professionals plan administrators choose, at the designated times and locations, including medication regimes; 
  • that you participate cooperatively in all counseling, therapy, or other individual or group sessions plan administrators choose at their designated times and locations; 
  • that you submit to regular and frequent drug and alcohol testing at the time, place, and location the plan professionals choose, even when conflicting with your other strict obligations and schedules; 
  • that you authorize all examiners and treaters to disclose your confidential mental and physical health information to other care providers and to Nebraska nursing license disciplinary authorities; 
  • that you abstain from drugs, alcohol, and even prescription or over-the-counter pain relief medications; 
  • that you not enter any restaurant, bar, club, sporting or entertainment venue, or other premises serving alcohol; and 
  • that you accept automatic or presumptive penalties for failing to comply with any major or minor term of your plan, up to program dismissal and permanent loss of your nursing license. 

Negotiating Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Terms 

You may find that you are unable to get Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program administrators and Best Care EAP officials to modify terms and conditions of your plan with which you are unable to comply, that prove difficult for you to meet, or that you feel are unnecessary, unhelpful, and unduly burdensome. Plan administrators don't always trust a client's representations when it comes to the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of a substance abuse issue. They tend to rely on customs and conventions for comprehensive plans with extensive monitoring. The rule tends to be to distrust and verify, not even to trust but to verify. Our attorneys may be able to help you negotiate better Licensee Assistance Program terms and conditions. We may also be able to advise you as to which terms you may find most arduous and most likely to trigger non-compliance issues. Get our help. Don't enter into a plan without our skilled and experienced advice. 

Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Accountability 

Having a substance abuse treatment plan sounds like a good thing. And indeed, it can be a good thing. Plans tend to lead to concerted and coordinated action of the type that could help even with a serious substance abuse issue. But Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program plans also generally come with plan monitoring and accountability. Best Care EAP administrators won't leave it to you to implement your plan or not, as you see fit. Once you receive the plan, you must generally go through with each of its requirements or face accountability to plan administrators, including disciplinary officials. If you are not careful, your substance abuse problem may become the least of your concerns. Your bigger concern may be small or large non-compliance issues. You may even find yourself fully recovered from any substance abuse issue but still facing disciplinary charges because of plan non-compliance. You could be making problems for yourself by entering into a diversion plan rather than solving problems. Let us help you evaluate. Your better option may be to fight any disciplinary charges head-on while getting your own substance abuse help outside of any formal diversion plan. 

Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Monitoring Duration 

The monitoring that your Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program requires will very likely last right through the duration of your evaluation, treatment, and recovery, and potentially last for years beyond when you complete your plan. Substance abuse professional assistance programs can regularly impose one or two years of post-plan monitoring, meaning continued reporting, evaluation, and drug and alcohol testing requirements. Some programs impose monitoring for as long as five years. That's a very long time to endure the burden and embarrassment of drug and alcohol testing and reporting. Let us help you decide whether that burden is worth it or whether you are better off fighting your disciplinary charges while getting your own substance abuse assistance outside the formal program. 

Nebraska Nursing Intervention and Diversion Issues 

The above discussion reveals challenges and issues you may not have seen when you first considered voluntarily entering the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program, whether as your own intervention, through referral from colleagues or others, or through encouragement or advice from disciplinary authorities. You may now see the considerable risk that a formal intervention and discipline diversion program can create for you, risks that could result in you losing your nursing license for plan non-compliance, even if you recover quickly from your substance abuse issues and present no danger to patients. Here is a straightforward summary of those issues. Let us help you evaluate them. 

Procedural Issues with Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Diversion 

Nebraska Board of Nursing disciplinary officials or Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program administrators may be advising and urging you to enter the intervention and diversion program. But those officials have significant conflicts of interest when giving you advice. Disciplinary officials are your adversaries, not your confidants and advisors. Administrators have their own interests in promoting and justifying their programs. Those officials and administrators may present your program enrollment as your only choice. They likely won't disclose the program's risks and burdens, which may be far greater than the program's benefits. Get our independent and trustworthy advice. 

Substantive Issues with Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Diversion 

You have also seen the risk that the Licensee Assistance Program will require you to do things that are so burdensome, unnecessary, unhelpful, and discouraging as to actively frustrate your recovery. If stress was a significant factor in the onset of your substance abuse issue, then you certainly don't need more stress. Yet your participation in the Licensee Assistance Program will likely add layer after layer of additional responsibility, bringing more and more stress. Be aware that the program may have administrative, travel, cost, and other burdens that could be a net negative in your recovery. You may have far better options in pursuing your own treatment program and defending any disciplinary charges with our help. 

Non-Compliance Issues with the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program 

You have also seen above that while you may recover fully from your substance abuse issues, with or without Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program help, your inability to comply with one or more large or small plan requirements may leave you with disciplinary charges for non-compliance. Disciplinary officials may have no substance abuse case against you. But your non-compliance with a formal diversion plan may give them the regulatory ammunition they need to pin disciplinary charges on you. Non-compliance could be your only remaining issue. Perhaps you now see that fighting the disciplinary charges upfront may be far better than giving in to an arduous diversion plan that sets you up for failure. 

Non-Confidentiality of Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program Participation 

By the time you are done with all the evaluation, treatment, counseling, reporting, testing, and monitoring of a Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program plan, you may have zero confidentiality remaining regarding the substance abuse issue that triggered your plan participation. As a nurse, you are a healthcare professional working in a network of healthcare professionals. Accessing that same healthcare network for substance abuse treatment services may lead to your entire network learning of your substance abuse issue. Don't expect confidentiality. Instead, anticipate significant disclosure among your employer, colleagues, family members, and other networks. Beware the risks of participating. Get our help to evaluate those risks and fight your disciplinary charges. 

Premier Nebraska Nursing License Defense 

Retain the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team to advise and represent you when deciding whether to participate in the Nebraska Licensee Assistance Program or, alternatively, pursue your own substance abuse recovery plan. Our attorneys have the skills and experience to fight any associated disciplinary charges effectively if that is your better option. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now to retain our Professional License Defense Team. 


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