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I took a narcotic home by accident and my manager wants to suspend me for 14 days. Can I fight this?

Monday April 1, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

I took a narcotic home by accident. I called my unit to report it as soon as I got home — I wanted to make sure the patient would still get a dose of pain meds, if needed. I had taken a sleep aid, so I was unable to drive back to the hospital. I returned the unopened medication the next morning, which was within nine hours. My manager wants to suspend me for 14 days. In 19 years of nursing, nothing like this has ever happened to me and I am fighting this action.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Mia,

It sounds as though you did everything you could to rectify your mistake. Your honesty should be commended, as should your years of nursing with no other incident like this. Hopefully these factors will be taken into consideration.

However, as you now know, this is a serious accident. It is assumed you are grieving the 14-day suspension. If you have not already done so, you should consult with a nurse attorney or attorney who can guide you in this process. When you go to the appointment with the attorney, be sure to bring the grievance policy and any forms required by the employer.

It may be that the discipline, if one is given, will be a lesser one if you are successful in grieving the suspension. For example, you may be given a first- level written warning.

Keep in mind that this accident may be reported to your state board of nursing. If this occurs and the attorney you consult with is not able to represent you before the board, he or she may be able to refer you to a colleague who can handle the board representation.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.