Help for New York Nurses Facing License Issues from Substance Abuse Problems

New York nurses, like nurses elsewhere, face unusually high risks of substance abuse, addiction, and dependency due to drug access, work pressures, and other challenges of life. Substance abuse and dependency issues can derail your nursing career. You may have the special help of the Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses (SPAN) discipline diversion program under the umbrella of the Professional Assistance Program (PAP) within the New York State Education Department's Office of the Professions. But don't accept SPAN program enrollment without first getting the advice and assistance of the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team. Diversion programs can carry significant risks to your license, setting you up for failure instead of success. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now to retain our skilled and experienced representation. Save your New York nursing license and practice from substance abuse issues and disciplinary action. 

Nursing Substance Abuse, Dependency, and Addiction 

You are not alone if you are a nurse with a substance abuse issue. The Journal of Nursing Regulation documents that nurses face greater risks of substance abuse, dependency, and addiction than the general population, like others in the healthcare professions. Nearly one in five nurses has a substance abuse issue. The first problem is the unusual access nurses have to prescription drugs and other mood-altering drugs used for anesthetics and similar purposes in medicine. Drugs are there for the taking. Access doesn't mean use and abuse. But it does mean temptation, including the ability to divert and abuse substances with less effort and less chance of detection. The second problem nurses face is the stress of their occupation, often working odd shifts and always working under the strict demands of doctors' orders and the critical needs of suffering patients. Self-medication for relief from those demands is a constant temptation. While stress has always been a factor in nursing substance abuse issues, the National Library of Medicine documents the impact of the pandemic's demands on significantly increased nursing stress. Don't succumb to your substance abuse issue. Get our help.  

Nursing Substance Abuse Disciplinary Triggers 

When nurses suffer substance abuse issues, various events can trigger substance abuse disciplinary charges. Missing medications can lead to a workplace investigation revealing your diversion, resulting in disciplinary charges. Showing up at work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is another one of those triggers. Supervisors, colleagues, patients, and their family members may see your aberrant behavior, smell alcohol, and report your condition, resulting in a disciplinary investigation. Even if you do not practice while impaired, word of your over-indulgence may work its way through your professional network until someone raises the concern with your supervisor, employer, or disciplinary officials. Drunk driving, open intoxicant, or disorderly conduct charges are also common triggers for disciplinary charges. A criminal charge raising substance abuse will likely result in disciplinary action. Chances are good that you will get caught if you have a serious substance abuse, dependency, or addiction issue. 

Regulation of New York Nursing Practice 

New York's Commissioner of Education recommends to the State Department of Education's Board of Regents nominees for the New York State Board of Nursing to assist the Department with regulating nursing practice. Don't doubt the State Board of Nursing's authority to discipline you under New York State Code Section 6904. The New York State Board of Nursing helps the Board of Regents establish the special professional standards you must meet to keep your nursing license, while you must also comply with the Board of Regents general standards for the health professions. Those standards are clearly broad enough to reach the occurrence or threat of impaired or intoxicated nursing practice. Don't give in to disciplinary charges, though. Just because you have or may have a substance abuse, dependency, or addiction issue does not mean that you should suffer discipline. Let our attorneys help you defend and defeat the disciplinary charges. 

New York Nurse Discipline 

New York's Office of the Professions within the State Department of Education disciplines hundreds of nurses annually under the above regulatory authority, according to public reports. If you suffer discipline of any kind, even a simple public reprimand short of license suspension or revocation, you won't be able to hide those disciplinary results. The State Department of Education publishes nurses disciplinary reports online in an easily searched format. Those online disclosures include the disciplined nurse's name, license number, action date, and regulatory wrongs. Many of those wrongs include drug diversions and impaired practice, showing again how serious and prevalent substance abuse issues are among New York nurses and how ready the Office of the Professions is to pursue discipline against them. Don't ignore your disciplinary risks. Get our help. 

New York Nursing Intervention and Diversion Program 

The Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses (SPAN) is New York's substance abuse intervention and discipline diversion program. SPAN is similar to intervention and diversion programs for medical doctors and other health professionals in the state, all operating under the umbrella of the State Education Department's Professional Assistance Program (PAP). The Office of the Professions within the State Education Department coordinates the SPAN program for nurses and the other PAP programs for other health professionals. You may have already heard of SPAN and may have already investigated its offerings. Don't, though, accept SPAN referral without first retaining our Professional License Defense Team for review and advice. The following discussion shows the significant risks of SPAN participation to your New York nursing license. 

New York SPAN Program Participation 

As part of the Office of Professions' Professional Assistance Programs (PAP), the SPAN intervention and diversion program for nurses has four requirements for program participation. Those requirements include your (1) complete abstinence from alcohol and other mood-altering substances, (2) surrender of your nursing license, at least temporarily, (3) treatment at an agency that PAP selects and approves, and (4) PAP monitoring for at least two years after the Office of Professions restores your license. You should immediately see that your SPAN program participation may not be appropriate. You may not have such a severe substance abuse issue as to require complete abstention, treatment, and monitoring. You may already be treating your substance abuse issue with a provider whom you trust and respect rather than one PAP selects. Above all, you may not wish, need, or be able to give up your nursing license, even temporarily, or face the risk that you won't meet all SPAN program requirements and may lose your license permanently. SPAN program participation may not be for you. Get our attorneys' help reviewing and deciding. 

New York SPAN Program Features 

New York's Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses (SPAN) claims that it provides confidential support and advocacy for nurses with substance abuse, dependency, and addiction issues. SPAN does not provide treatment services but refers nurses to other providers for them. SPAN is the state's arm to comply with the above strict requirements of the Professional Assistance Program (PAP). SPAN employs staff members to ensure that participating nurses meet those PAP requirements. SPAN also acknowledges that it advocates with PAP officials and other regulatory agencies regarding the nurses in its program. When you deal with SPAN, you are dealing with PAP and other state regulators. Expect your SPAN participation to include some or all of these features:  

  • referral for substance abuse, dependency, and addiction evaluation; 
  • enforcement of a treatment plan for diagnosed or suspected issues; 
  • treatment at a facility and by providers SPAN chooses; 
  • plan monitoring to ensure your strict compliance with all terms; 
  • drug and alcohol testing at times, dates, and locations SPAN chooses; 
  • your completion and provider completion of SPAN reporting forms;  
  • your payment for evaluation, treatment, testing, and monitoring; and 
  • close state regulatory tracking of your compliance for discipline purposes. 

Getting into SPAN Substance Abuse Diversion 

New York nurses needing or wanting substance abuse intervention and disciplinary diversion get into the SPAN program in one of three ways. Some nurses voluntarily self-refer, choosing on their own to enter the program. Other nurses have a supervisor, employer representative, colleague, or other acquaintance contact SPAN, PAP, or another agency, leading to SPAN reaching out to the nurse needing intervention. Other nurses enter SPAN when already facing disciplinary charges for impaired practice due to substance abuse or a related wrong, on the premise that they must do so to escape damaging discipline. In theory, SPAN participation can work to divert discipline. In practice, the challenges are greater than simply enrolling in SPAN to escape discipline. Participating nurses must comply with their SPAN plan or face discipline.  

New York SPAN Program Plans 

Websites, flyers, brochures, and other advertising communications may make SPAN participation sound like a mutual, voluntary negotiation over the terms of your participation as if you can pick and choose plan features. On the contrary, you should generally expect the SPAN program to impose terms and conditions common to other plans and required by its supervising and coordinating PAP agency. You'll likely have to do as they tell you, not as you need, desire, and prefer. Your SPAN plan, with which you must strictly comply, may include the following terms and conditions: 

  • your full cooperation with and payment for examination and evaluation by mental health and addiction professionals SPAN chooses, whether you have health insurance plan coverage for those providers or not; 
  • your submission to frequent drug and alcohol testing wherever SPAN sends you, at SPAN's designated times and dates, whether convenient to your work, school, or family schedules or not; 
  • your full participation with and payment for treatments your plan specifies by treaters your plan chooses, at their times, dates, and locations; 
  • your full participation in and payment for all psychotherapy and other counseling, whether or not covered by your health insurance; 
  • your authorization that your examiners and treaters share your confidential information not only with all other care providers but also with SPAN, PAP, and other agencies; 
  • that you stay out of restaurants, clubs, bars, and other locations serving alcohol, interfering with your social relationships; 
  • your abstention from all drugs and alcohol, potentially restricting your prescription medication for other health conditions; and 
  • your acceptance of automatic penalties for your failure to comply, including program dismissal and permanent loss of your license. 

Negotiating New York SPAN Program Terms 

You may have only limited opportunity to negotiate and modify the above terms of your SPAN program plan. In a perfect world, you would get to sit down with SPAN officials to fashion your best plan. But substance abuse monitoring officials don't always take the participant's communications at face value. They may instead impose terms on the grounds that the participant is not fully disclosing their substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. You may thus find yourself facing plan terms and conditions that you cannot afford, for which you have no health insurance coverage, that you do not need, and even that are actively frustrating, discouraging, or harmful. You may also find some terms and conditions with which you cannot practically comply because of your other obligations or natural limitations on your time, transportation, and finances. Our attorneys may be able to help you negotiate better SPAN plan terms. Just don't enter into a SPAN plan that sets you up for failure. Get our help. Your better option may be to fight the disciplinary charges while getting your own substance abuse care. 

New York SPAN Program Accountability 

Your SPAN program participation won't be a matter of SPAN giving you a plan and then letting you go pursue it. Instead, monitoring is a prominent feature of substance abuse, dependency, and addiction plans. Monitoring means that you and your providers will have to report frequently and consistently to SPAN officials. Monitoring may also mean that you must submit to frequent drug and alcohol tests. Failures to report and submit, and anomalies in reporting or test results, can be their own plan violations. In other words, you may be recovering fully from your substance abuse issues but may get caught up in a thicket of reporting and testing issues for which you may face discipline as if you were a wrongdoer. When you enter a SPAN plan, you take on a new regulatory regime and burden that has its own risks and penalties without regard to your underlying substance abuse issue. Our attorneys can help you ensure that SPAN participation is right for you or if fighting your disciplinary issues is your better course. 

How Long New York SPAN Monitoring Lasts 

As indicated above, PAP requires that your SPAN program include a two-year monitoring requirement after you complete your SPAN plan. You might reasonably have expected a three to six-month monitoring program while you undergo evaluation, treatment, and counseling. However, your monitoring will continue for an additional two years beyond the completion of your plan. PAP indicates that two years is the monitoring minimum. You could face monitoring for a significantly longer period, even as much as five years. Two years, four years, or five years is a very long time to practice under the watchful eye of monitoring regulators. Let us help you negotiate a shorter term or avoid monitoring altogether by fighting, defending, and defeating the disciplinary charges. 

New York Nursing Intervention and Diversion Issues 

You can see that SPAN program participation carries several significant issues. It is not as easy as getting help with your substance abuse, dependency, and addiction issues. SPAN program participation carries significant regulatory risks. In many cases, program participation can be far riskier than simply contesting the disciplinary charges. Program participation may also be far more onerous and less helpful than simply getting the substance abuse help you need on your own, from your own chosen providers, without monitoring. Here is a summary of program issues. Get our help evaluating and negotiating your SPAN participation or, alternatively, fighting your disciplinary charges. 

Procedural Issues with New York SPAN Program Diversion 

New York State Education Department Office of the Professions disciplinary officials may instruct, demand, and urge you to participate in SPAN without disclosing to you the risks and burdens of doing so or your better alternative of invoking protective procedures to fight the disciplinary charges. They may portray SPAN as your only choice or as your best choice when they are not your advocates, are instead your adversaries, and have serious conflicts of interest when purporting to give you advice. Level the playing field. Retain our Professional License Defense Team to advise you as to your best course. 

Substantive Issues with New York SPAN Program Diversion 

To put it bluntly, participation in the SPAN program may do more harm to you than good for you. Monitoring programs have many hoops through which participants must jump. Every obligation imposes its burden. You already have limited time and resources. Those limitations and their stresses may have been the trigger for your substance abuse issues. You don't need more stress. You need less stress. Taking on an additional program while trying to work and maintain your health, family, and other obligations may be the worst possible thing for you. Let us help you evaluate. You have options, including getting your own substance abuse evaluation and treatment and defending the disciplinary charges.  

Non-Compliance Issues with New York SPAN Program Participation 

Another issue you face is that you might readily recover from your substance abuse issue on your own or with the help of others so that you are fully ready to resume your nursing practice, but your SPAN program participation leaves you facing a non-compliance issue. The saying is that the cover-up can be worse than the crime. You may have done nothing wrong relative to your substance abuse issue and may have fully recovered. However, Office of the Professions disciplinary officials may treat your minor SPAN plan non-compliance as if you have bad character, lack commitment to your recovery, and are a risk to patients and the nursing profession. They may even do so under automatic and presumptive penalties. Don't let non-compliance become your big issue. Keep the focus on recovering from your substance abuse issues and getting back into nursing practice healthy.  

Non-Confidentiality of New York SPAN Program Participation 

You have seen above that the SPAN program advertises its confidentiality while admitting that it shares your program participation information with PAP and other agency officials. You should also recognize that your substance abuse evaluation and treatment providers will share information with one another. You will likely also need to disclose your SPAN program participation to your employer and any educational program in which you are participating to have the flexibility of schedule to meet all SPAN drug testing, evaluation, treatment, and reporting times and dates. Virtually everyone within your professional network may quickly learn of your substance abuse issue. Your family members and friends would also likely learn of your issues for the same schedule reasons. Don't expect confidentiality from your SPAN program participation. Instead, expect widespread disclosure.  

Premier New York Nursing License Defense 

For any or all of the above reasons, you may see that fighting the New York Office of the Professions disciplinary charges is your best option. If you currently face or are about to face the New York Office of the Profession disciplinary charges relating to substance abuse issues and are considering a SPAN program intervention and diversion offer, retain the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team to assist you. Our attorneys can help you review, evaluate, and negotiate for reasonable SPAN program terms and help you decide whether program participation is wise or whether you are better off pursuing your own plan. We are also ready to fight the disciplinary charges if that is your better option. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now for the skilled and experienced representation of 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.
The Lento Law Firm will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.