What Happens If I Fail Pre-Employment Drug Testing for a Nursing Position?

What Happens If I Fail Pre-Employment Drug Testing for a Nursing Position

Drug testing is part of the process of becoming a nurse in Georgia.

You may be asked to submit to a drug test when studying nursing or when seeking employment as a nurse (a pre-employment drug test).

Random drug tests may also be conducted for nurses and other healthcare providers at any time after you’re employed.

So, what happens if you fail a pre-employment drug test? Can you still be employed as a nurse?

Some nurses who are not knowingly taking illicit drugs are shocked to fail a drug test and are understandably concerned that their chosen career is in jeopardy. That’s a high price to pay for a “false positive” test result.

Much depends on the circumstances surrounding the negative result and what you do after the test…

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What if you have a legitimate problem with drugs or alcohol?

Sometimes, a nurse who is on prescription medication containing a small trace of methamphetamine or other illicit substance may return a false positive.

This is a serious situation but a legitimate medical reason for using a drug will usually absolve the nurse and prevent disciplinary action — you may, however, need the assistance of a nursing license defense attorney like Adam D. Brown to help plead your case.

Those with a drug or alcohol issue may not be treated so leniently but it does not automatically result in the loss of your nursing license.

You may be required by the Georgia Board of Nursing to attend a rehabilitation center or treatment facility if you have a legitimate problem.

Warning signs: how do you identify substance abuse with nurses?

There are often distinct behavioral signs of drug or alcohol abuse among nurses. If you notice a nurse doing any of the following, consider it a possible “red flag”:

  • Volunteering to administer more medication
  • Administering the maximum medication dose every time
  • Making regular mistakes with documentation
  • Being responsible for discrepancies in the management of controlled substances
  • Being responsible for excessive wastage or breaking items regularly
  • Receiving patient complaints about ineffective pain medication
  • Requesting to work shifts with less supervision
  • Displaying increased anxiety, emotion, mood swings or inappropriate anger
  • Having increasing issues when interacting with others
  • Displaying increased forgetfulness
  • Going to the bathroom excessively or taking unexplained breaks
  • Being absent, having sick days and/or being late
  • Falling asleep on the job
  • Displaying sudden unexplained changes in behavior or appearance

As well as these behavioral signs, there may be physical signs of substance abuse, such as shaking or tremors of the hands, slurred speech, watery or bloodshot eyes, unsteadiness on the feet and excessive weight loss or gain.

Georgia Board of Nursing requirements for nurses dealing with substance abuse

The Georgia Board of Nursing is responsible for looking after the health, safety and welfare of the general public when it comes to nursing care.

To this end, it has made provisions to help address the problem of nurses who fail drug tests and are dealing with substance abuse or dependence. The first thought is to try to help to rehabilitate them.

A nurse in this situation must be involved in an “aftercare” group. This is a weekly support group attended by other nurses or professionals who are coping with the same issues. Members of the group provide valuable support and can act as inspirational role models for each other.

Some of the benefits of participating in an aftercare group include:

  • More structured monitoring of substance abuse issues: a professional or volunteer facilitator submits quarterly reports and communicates with compliance staff in the Board of Nursing office.
  • Can share experiences and receive support for a sustainable recovery with professionals going through the same substance abuse issues.
  • Receive education on substance use disorder.

Nurses may select any qualifying support group in the state of Georgia but will need permission from the Board of Nursing to change groups.

Random drug screenings will be conducted to ensure that nurses attending the group comply with the requirements.

How are nurses reported to the Georgia Board of Nursing?

To help protect the public, the Georgia Board of Nursing has taken steps to intervene early with nurses facing problems with drug or alcohol abuse.

A self-report packet is available for nurses who recognize they have a problem with a chemical dependency and need help or have tested positive without a valid prescription for any drug contained in the Controlled Substances Act.

You should also self-report to the Georgia Board of Nursing if you completed or enrolled in substance abuse treatment for alcohol, illegal drugs/substances or prescription drugs (without a valid prescription) or diverted medications from patients or the workplace.

Anyone who has reasonable cause to suspect that a nursing licensee has a problem with drug or alcohol abuse that has resulted in professional misconduct (according to the Nurse Practice Act) should also report this to the Board.

Nursing license consequences and defenses for failing a drugs test

If the Georgia Board of Nursing suspects misconduct as a result of substance abuse or a nurse fails a drug test, it has the power to suspend or revoke a nursing license.

If you find yourself in this difficult position, nursing license defense attorney Adam D. Brown can defend you and your nursing license.

There are several possible defenses:

  • False positive: the test did not yield accurate results due to improper collection and handling.
  • The failed drug test was due to prescribed medication for a documented medical condition.
  • You used the drug but are not addicted and it does not affect your ability to work and you do not require active supervision.

Your nursing license defense attorney can gather evidence to help support your defense and reduce your penalty, including evaluations from a psychologist, psychiatrist or another professional.

Contact the Law Office of Adam D. Brown to arrange a case evaluation if you need advice or representation in matters concerning nursing licenses in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

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