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Can an RN who stopped working 14 years ago due to prescription medication abuse and diversion hope to work as an RN again?

Wednesday July 2, 2014
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Dear Nancy,

I stopped practicing in 2000 due to prescription medication abuse and diversion. My license was suspended. I am trying to return to the profession after a lot of soul searching and coming to terms with what happened. Do you have any advice for me?


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Maxine,

Re-entry into the workforce is always a challenge. This is especially so after a lot of time has passed since leaving work. In addition, the reason you left is also a difficult one to come to grips with. Yet, it sounds as though you have decided you can re-enter and re-establish your role as a nurse. You should be commended for starting on this journey.

Since your license was suspended, you will need to comply with any conditions placed on you by the board of nursing concerning getting your license re-instated. Many times conditions such as a minimum number of years of being clean and sober, the completion of a recognized behavioral health treatment program, negative drug screen and regular attendance at 12-step meetings are required. You should review the order that suspended your license and be certain you can provide proof of the requirements in it. It would be a good idea for you to retain a nurse attorney or other attorney to represent you in the process of reinstating your license.

If you have met the board of nursing's requirements, the board most probably will require continued monitoring for a while, continued treatment as indicated and a refresher course since it has been such a long time since you have practiced. These are common mandates of most boards of nursing. Your attorney can advise you of others the board may want you to comply with for a defined period
of time.

Some employers find it difficult to hire someone who has had a drug and/or alcohol problem. Others, however, are willing to give a nurse a second chance. Do not be discouraged by this. Be sure to seek out a position that you know will suit your skills, your needs, and your strengths.

The most important thing for you to remember is if you want to begin practicing nursing again, that desire is what should drive you to do so. It may be difficult and it may take some time, but if you want to begin your professional nursing practice again, nothing you can control in the process should stand in your way.


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.