I currently work in an ICU. I had an opportunity to care for a patient/nurse (who was a nurse at another facility) who overdosed. She was transferred, when stable, to a treatment center by court order. I was told we cannot report her to the board due to HIPAA. My question is, "How do we plan to handle this type of incident in the future?" " Will there be any specific changes made to address problems like this in the future?" I understand with the renewal of our license we must answer the question of treatment for use of "alcohol or any other drug." But if there is no report of her being in the hospital for treatment, due to HIPAA, it's possible that she may not answer the question truthfully. Can you please help with these questions. I appreciate your time.
Whether a nurse is admitted for an overdose of a substance, or admitted secondary to some type of accident related to being under the influence of any mind-altering substance, the answer would remain the same.
The license renewal form for both LVNs and RNs includes a question that asks "In the past 5 years have you been addicted or treated for the use of alcohol or any other drug?” A nurse or any other person who is treated for an overdose or any kind is not necessarily suffering from a substance "addiction" and would not, therefore, need "treatment" for an addiction. There could be a psychological issue underlying the OD, such as depression, which would also not require the nurse to reveal anything to the Board since one of the other renewal questions asks "In the past 5 years, have you been diagnosed with or treated or hospitalized for schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoid personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or borderline personality disorder?" Even if the nurse in question was "transferred for treatment" related to an overdose, he/she would still not be reportable because they are a patient in this situation---not a practicing nurse who is being compensated.
As with the nurse admitted due to an overdose on a substance, a nurse admitted for treatment as a patient for any reason secondary to being found "under the influence" is also not reportable to the board. Should the nurses' conduct lead to a criminal conviction, including an adjudicated or probated sentence, this would be self-reportable (or could be reported by another entity, such as law enforcement authority). A question regarding criminal conduct is also on the renewal form. In addition, the Board has Disciplinary Sanction Polices on "Substance Abuse, Misuse, Substance Dependency, or other Substance Use Disorder" as well as "Lying and Falsification" that may be helpful for you to review.
The plan for the future will be to continue to comply with the Federal HIPAA law that mandates adherence to certain patient privacy rights in relation to a person's medical records and information. The BON would have no grounds under NPA Sections 301.401 to take action against a nurse who is being treated as a patient for any health problem. Occasionally nurses have, currently can, and probably will continue to lie on occasion about being treated or diagnosed with a reportable condition. Any nurse who falsifies information relating to the practice of nursing or nursing licensure runs the risk of being "caught"--- possibly years in the future, should the nurse be reported to the Board and investigated for possible practice violations. Nurses face stiffer sanctions from the Board when it is discovered that a nurse falsified information to the BON. You may wish to review the Board's various Disciplinary Sanction Policies (4 in total) that explain why the Board is concerned about certain actions/behaviors of nurses and how the Board typically acts in these situations.