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How can a nurse with a former substance abuse issue work toward becoming reinstated?

Thursday October 3, 2013
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Question:

Dear Donna,

My license was suspended several years ago because of issues with substance abuse. The board ordered me to get a substance abuse evaluation, a psychiatric evaluation, have three months monitoring with the peer assistance program and pay fines. When I left nursing in 2000 (before being suspended) I didn't think I would return to nursing.

I've decided I'd like to try and come back. The problem is that I do not have the money to do any of this. I work as a housekeeper for $8.50 an hour and can barely meet basic expenses. In the years following my suspension I have obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science and stayed clean. Why can't the board take those factors into account? I have written to the board, and they say I have to comply with the orders before applying for relicensure/reinstatement.

Trying to Come Back to Nursing

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Trying to Come Back to Nursing,

It's challenging for me to address your situation without knowing all the particulars and what "orders" you have not yet complied with. But I can give you some general advice.

Try talking to a nurse attorney (some will offer an initial complimentary consultation) to see if you have an alternative course of action to get your license reinstated depending on what the obstacles are. Nurse attorneys are uniquely qualified to interpret the laws related to nursing licensure and practice. And a few might even offer to help you for deferred payment. Find a nurse attorney through the American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org) or by getting a referral through your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.ana.org). You don’t have to be a member of these organizations.

If it's a matter of taking a refresher course because you have been away from nursing for so long, there may not be any way around that. So if money is the only obstacle right now, ask for financial help from those in your life. There are plenty of people who are willing to help someone like you to give you a second chance. It happens all the time. But you have to swallow your pride and ask. Where there is a will there is always a way.

In the meantime, rather than working in a low-paying, non-healthcare position, why not at least look for non-nursing work in a healthcare setting while you work on the other issues? For example, consider seeking work as a phlebotomist for a blood bank or something similar.

At the very least, you should be doing some volunteer work in a healthcare setting (American Red Cross, American Heart Association) to stay connected to your profession and rebuild your confidence and your skill set.

Best wishes,

Donna


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://www. Nurse.com/Events.