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I surrendered my license because I was addicted to drugs and have a felony on my record. Can I go to another state and apply for a license, and then start school?

Monday January 21, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I am an LPN who surrendered my license because I was addicted to drugs and have a felony on my record. I thought I was doing the right thing, but did not fully understand the voluntary disciplinary alternative program at the time. I went to a residential rehabilitation facility for one year as ordered by the court, but it was not an Alabama Board of Nursing provider. Also, I have been under supervised court probation for four years. I have been clean since 2006 and don't even drink alcohol. I was a dedicated nurse and loved my profession. I am 60 years old and want to continue my education as a RN, possibly pursuing a master’s degree. I can’t even start a generic nursing course until I get my license cleared. I wish I had known that surrendering my license was the worst thing I could have possibly done. I returned to school and received a diploma in medical insurance billing and coding. I cry every day because I loved med/surg and hospice nursing. Can I go to another state and apply for a license, and then start school? Can you advise me on this matter?

Heartbroken Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Heartbroken Nurse,

Congratulations on your sobriety. If everything you did brought you to that point, then it was definitely worth it.

I recommend you consult a nurse attorney (as opposed to a non-nurse attorney) to help you move forward and get your record straightened out as best as possible. A nurse attorney is uniquely qualified to advise and support you on the law and on licensure issues in your state. This seems like a necessary next step for you.

Before you say you can't afford an attorney, call a few just to talk. Some nurse attorneys will have a free initial consultation with you to see if they can help. Some state chapters of nursing associations, such as the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) or the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (www.nflpn.org) have attorneys that will work with nurses pro bono or for a nominal fee, whether or not you are a member. Find a nurse attorney by asking around, doing an Internet search or via a referral through the above associations or The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org).

Going to another state will not solve your problems — you can't hide from a felony in this way. It's best to try to get this resolved right where you are.

While you are taking steps to get legal advice and support, start volunteering in a healthcare setting, such as a hospice, free clinic or the Red Cross. I understand you need paid work, but volunteering often leads to paid employment. This is a way for you to serve patients and do some of the work you love. Plus, it will give your days and weeks some structure and take your mind off your troubles for a few hours.

Also look into becoming an addictions counselor. Many folks in recovery do this work, and you don't need to be a nurse. Once you get your license clean and reinstated, you can continue this type of work if it interests you.

Healthcare is changing. Most hospitals are not hiring LPNs for direct care anymore, especially those without recent experience. More care is being delivered in the outpatient setting and in the home. So seek employment, even volunteer work for now, in other settings.

Networking is known to be an effective way to find a job, especially when you have obstacles to overcome. So activate your network of friends, family and colleagues to get introductions, leads and referrals. Persistence and determination will always win.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.