Nursing and Substance Abuse in Idaho

As a nurse, you put your heart and soul into your work. The hours spent obtaining and maintaining your education, licensure, and credentials pale compared to the hours you put in serving patients. It is, at times, thankless work. And yet, it's still a calling. As with many professions — many healthcare providers turn to alcohol or drugs to get them through the stresses of work. In moderation, these crutches can be fine. But sometimes, people can misconstrue the actions of another person, and it can have detrimental effects on their future. This is especially true for nurses.

A nurse in Idaho who is wrongly accused of having a substance use disorder, or abusing or misusing drugs in Idaho can face disciplinary action by the Idaho Board of Nursing. And while the Board offers “alternative discipline” programs for nurses facing substance abuse accusations, it may not be the best option.

Accusations of substance abuse and misuse can have serious implications for your nursing career and reputation. So, it's important that you understand the repercussions of any disciplinary action. You need the advice of an experienced defense attorney. Contact the Professional License Defense Lawyer from the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or through our online form to protect your interests and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Precipitating Incidents that Can Lead to a Nurse to Face Board Disciplinary Actions for Substance Abuse

Your personal life is your personal life and separate from your professional career. On your own time, you can have cocktails with friends or even smoke weed when visiting a state where it's recreationally legal. Sometimes, your actions, even on your own time away from work, can become known to the Board, and you could face repercussions. Here are some common precipitating incidents that may lead to disciplinary action:

Positive Drug Screen

A positive drug test during a routine workplace drug testing or a suspicion-based test can be a significant trigger for disciplinary action. Many healthcare facilities have strict policies in place regarding substance abuse, and a positive drug screen can lead to immediate suspension or termination of employment.

Reporting by Colleagues or Superiors

If colleagues, supervisors, or healthcare providers observe erratic behavior, slurred speech, or a noticeable decline in a nurse's job performance, they may notify the Board or treatment resources.

Criminal Charges

When a healthcare worker is charged with criminal activity related to drug possession, distribution, or impaired driving, the court clerk will often notify their professional board in the spirit of patient safety.

Patient Complaints

Patients or their families may report concerns related to a nurse's behavior or actions that suggest substance abuse. For example, they may accuse a nurse of diverting prescription medications for their own use or an illegal purpose or that a nurse is acting unprofessionally as if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Idaho's Health Professionals Recovery Program

The Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses offers a confidential, non-punitive program to assist medical professionals, including nurses, who have or are at risk of developing an addiction. This program, called the Health Professionals Recovery Program, aims to assist professionals and their families to identify substance use disorders that pose a potential threat to their careers and to get them the help they need. The program specifically for nurses is called the Program for Recovering Nurses (PRN).

The Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses notes that “unsafe behaviors” resulting from “habitual chemical use” are grounds for formal discipline. However, it recognizes that licensees who acknowledge their substance abuse may be impaired as a result of chemical dependence and who are actively engaged in a recognized recovery method and, as such, don't pose a threat to the public, should be allowed to practice. However, to ensure public safety, the Division provides monitoring of licensed nurses outside of formal disciplinary investigations to ensure the licensee is supported in their recovery and prevention of relapse.

This alternative discipline has two tracks — Non-Board Referral and Referral by the Licensing Board.

Track 1: Non-Board Referral

Under this track, the Board is not aware of any violations the licensee has made of the Practice Act or Rules. Either the licensee or an agent of their choosing, such as an employer, family member, or colleague, reaches out to the Health Professionals Recovery Program for assistance. The licensee agrees to enter a treatment program and sign a contract agreeing to be monitored by the program. The program releases the licensee once they have successfully completed and complied with all requirements and monitoring. The licensing board will receive no information about the licensee's involvement in the program.

Track 2: Referral by Licensing Board

Under this second track, a formal complaint has been made to the Idaho Board of Nursing regarding the licensed nurse or the licensee having voluntarily surrendered their license to the Board and admitted to a disability relating to substance abuse. The licensee also waives their right to a hearing. The licensee is then referred to the Health Professionals Recovery Program or the Program for Recovering Nurses, agrees to enter a treatment program for chemical addiction, and signs a contract for monitoring through the program. The licensee is released from the program following compliance with the monitoring contract and satisfactory completion. Once completed, there is no record of formal disciplinary action by the licensing board.

Use Caution Before Agreeing to Any Programs

The Health Professionals Recovery Program and Program for Recovering Nurses are great discipline alternatives for healthcare professionals who are struggling with substance abuse disorder and want to practice again once they recover. But what if someone made a complaint to the Board accusing you of misusing substances?

Let's take a closer look at what the Idaho Nursing Rules and Regulations say about a nurse suspected of substance, which the code describes as “Disability Due to Substance Use Disorder or Mental Health Disorder.” It says:

  • In lieu of discipline, the Board or its executive officer may refer a licensee who is chemically dependent or physically or psychologically impaired to a peer assistance entity.
  • As a condition to entry into a peer assistance entity, the licensee may be required to sign a written statement admitting to all the facts that constitute grounds for disciplinary action and/or demonstrate impairment of the safe practice of nursing and waive the right to a contested case hearing under the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act.

You may think the easy way out is to avoid a hearing in front of the Idaho Board of Nursing and accept the punishment. But think again. While the Program for Recovering Nurses promises that no record will be kept with the Board, if a complaint has already been filed against you and the option to enter a treatment facility is offered, you must:

  1. sign a written statement admitting to all the facts that constitute grounds for disciplinary action and/or
  2. demonstrate impairment of the safe practice of nursing and
  3. waive the right to a contested case hearing

That means you forfeit the right to defend yourself before the Board. Furthermore, you will have to surrender your license before entering the treatment program. That means once you finish the program, you'll have to reapply and jump through hoops to get your license back. And while the Board may have no record of your stint in rehab, you can expect to field questions about why you agreed to surrender your nursing license when you reapply for your credentials.

Don't fall down this rabbit hole of disciplinary darkness without a firm grasp of your options. You need the advice of an experienced professional license defense lawyer from the minute a complaint is made to the Board, or someone makes a referral call to the Program for Recovering Nurses. Don't leave your options up to chance. Make your decision based on level-headed legal advice and not biased opinions — not when your job, your reputation, and your future are at stake.

Grounds for Disciplinary Action against Idaho Nurses

The Idaho Board of Nursing expects its member nurses to abide by the Idaho Nurse Practice Act and to follow the Idaho Nursing Rules and Regulations. When the Board finds a nurse in violation of the Act or these rules and regulations, it can launch an investigation and, if it deems fit, hand down disciplinary measures. Some grounds for disciplinary action based on misuse or abuse of substances include:

  • Habitual use of alcohol or drugs to the extent that the nurse's judgment, skills, or abilities to provide safe and competent nursing care are impaired.
  • Prescribing, dispensing, or selling any drug classified as a controlled substance to a family member or to oneself. The rule defines “family member” as a licensee's spouse, child (adopted, foster, or biological), parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or any of the aforementioned of the same relation by marriage.

Furthermore, the rules state that nurses in Idaho:

  • Cannot obtain, possess, or administer prescription drugs to any person, including themselves, except as directed by a person authorized by law.
  • Must respect the property of patients and their employer and not take or divert any equipment, materials, property, or drugs without prior consent or authorization.
  • Cannot violate any state or federal law relating to controlled substances.

Disciplinary Actions Idaho Nurses Face for Board Discipline for Substance Abuse

So, let's say you decide to fight the charges against you. You are innocent, so the truth will come out in the end, right? You may even have a long list of former patients and colleagues who will support you — at least to some degree. Surely, you can talk some sense into the Board once you can make your case. Think again. If the Board investigates and determines disciplinary action is appropriate, you could face probation, suspension, or revocation of your nursing license. The Idaho Board of Nursing is powerful. But it's also not flawless.

Its members may make an unjust decision despite false accusations for many reasons. For example:

  • The Board could fail to carry out the necessary due diligence and, thus, not uncover facts, or important testimony or evidence that could influence the overall outcome of your case.
  • One or more Board members may be biased either toward the accuser or negatively toward you.
  • The Board could fail to come to a fair or accurate conclusion despite having evidence that supports your case.

The Idaho Board of Nursing has the authority to levy disciplinary action against its member nurses. In some situations, a nurse may be wrongly accused, and they are hit with stronger penalties than they deserve. In an instant, their nursing license and career are in jeopardy. Never assume that just because you are innocent of the accusations made against you, the board won't levy sanctions against you.

If someone accuses you of inappropriate use of drugs or alcohol, you must prepare for the worst possible scenario. You must hire a lawyer and defend your license and your career. Your future depends on it.

Adjudication Process for Idaho Nurses Facing Board Discipline for Substance Abuse

When you go up against the Idaho Board of Nursing to defend yourself against accusations, the adjudication process runs similar to a court hearing. The specific procedures and timelines may vary depending on the circumstances of your case, but here is a general overview of the process:

Complaint or Report

The process usually begins with a complaint or report made to the Idaho Board of Nursing. This complaint can come from various sources, including colleagues, employers, patients, or self-reporting by the nurse.


Once the IBN receives a complaint or report, it will initiate an investigation. This investigation aims to gather evidence and information related to the allegations of substance abuse. This may involve interviews with relevant parties, review of medical records, and other relevant documents.


If the investigation uncovers sufficient evidence to support the allegations, the nurse will be notified of the charges and the opportunity to respond. The nurse will typically receive a formal notice of the allegations, outlining the specific charges and providing a deadline for responding.


The nurse has the right to respond to the allegations. They can provide a written response, attend an informal conference with the IBN, or request a formal hearing, depending on the circumstances and the severity of the charges. During this phase, the nurse can present evidence, witnesses, or explanations to contest the charges.


After receiving the nurse's response and any additional evidence or information, the IBN will evaluate the case. They will consider the evidence, arguments, and any mitigating factors presented by the nurse.

Disciplinary Action

If the IBN determines that disciplinary action is warranted, it will decide on the appropriate sanctions or penalties. These may include probation, suspension, revocation of licensure, fines, required substance abuse treatment, monitoring, or other actions aimed at protecting public safety.


If the nurse disagrees with the IBN's decision, they have the right to appeal the decision. The appeal process may involve administrative hearings, and nurses have the opportunity to be represented by legal counsel during this phase.

Compliance and Monitoring

In cases where the nurse's license is not revoked but disciplinary actions are imposed, the nurse will be required to comply with any conditions set by the IBN. This may include participating in a rehabilitation program, undergoing regular drug testing, or other measures to ensure public safety. Failure to comply with these conditions can lead to further disciplinary action.

Reasons to Hire the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm When Faced with a Substance Abuse Accusation

When someone makes a referral to the Health Professionals Recovery Program or the Program for Recovering Nurses for you — or you're facing an investigation by the Idaho Board of Nursing due to a complaint against you — you may wonder if you should get an attorney. Will a lawyer consider your case no big deal? Or will hiring a lawyer give the Board the impression that you are guilty? The answer to both questions is a resounding NO.

First, professional license defense attorneys understand what is at stake when a professional faces accusations that can result in disciplinary action by their professional board. Secondly, having a lawyer doesn't give people the impression you are guilty. On the contrary! It shows the Board and others that you are serious about clearing your good name and that you will fight for your license, your career, your reputation, and your future.

When it comes to losing the nursing license and credentials you worked years to earn, you need the Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm on your side, fighting to protect your rights and your future. Here are some compelling reasons why we are so passionate about protecting your reputation:

  • The Idaho Board of Nursing's threshold is low when it comes to levying sanctions against one of its member nurses. It may consider you guilty until proven innocent, and you must face the tremendous burden of disproving the false or overstated claims against you. This is not the time to step back and assume the Board will make the right decision in your case. This is when you need to bring the big guns to the fight — a team of Professional License Defense Lawyers who know how to play hardball.
  • The Idaho Board of Nursing has extensive resources and deep pockets. They're not afraid to use both when investigating a complaint of substance abuse or misuse with one of its member nurses. When you go up against the Board, you go up against their pack of lawyers. You need to level the playing field to have a fair fight. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has years of experience defending healthcare workers in front of their professional boards. They can help you, too.
  • Not only do our lawyers have years of experience, they have a strong track record of success in offering valuable advice and securing the best possible outcome for their nursing and healthcare clients.

We Serve Nurses Facing Board Discipline for Substance Abuse Throughout Idaho

Our Professional License Defense Team represents clients throughout the country, including Idaho. We are especially active in cities such as:


The capital city of Idaho, more than 234,000 people call Boise home. Boise is also home to major hospitals, including St. Luke's Boise Medical Center, Treasure Valley Hospital, and Vibra Hospital of Boise.


With over 125,000 residents, Meridian is Idaho's second-largest city. Several hospitals are located in Meridian, including St. Luke's Meridian Medical Center.


Idaho's third-largest city, Nampa, has just over 100,000 residents. Located about 20 miles north of Boise, it is home to healthcare clinics and hospitals, such as St. Luke's Nampa Medical Center and Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Nampa.

Let the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Fight for You

Facing accusations of substance abuse and navigating the complex adjudication process can be daunting. It's a critical time when your professional future hangs in the balance. These accusations of substance abuse and misuse can have serious implications for your nursing career and reputation.

At Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team understands the unique challenges nurses face in such situations. We are committed to providing dedicated legal representation to help you protect your nursing license, your career, and your reputation.

If you find yourself facing board discipline for substance abuse, don't face it alone. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through the process, offer advice, and ensure that your rights are protected at every step. We'll work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Take the first step toward securing your professional future by contacting Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team today. Your career matters, and we are here to help you defend it. Reach out to us now for a confidential consultation and personalized legal assistance tailored to your unique situation. Don't wait — let us be your staunch advocates in this challenging time. Your future as a nurse is worth fighting for.

Contact the Professional License Defense Lawyer from the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or through our online form to protect your interests and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.


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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