In August, 2013, the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing drastically changed the interpretation of the statute governing suspension of a nursing license for a violation under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
Prior to August, 2013, if a nurse was convicted of a felony under this Act, as long as a nurse was enrolled in a nursing assistance program such as the Pennsylvania Nursing Assistance Program (PNAP), the Nursing Board would typically place the nurse on probation. In many cases, after a nurse is arrested the nurse will enroll in PNAP while the criminal case is pending. That nurse would also enroll in the Voluntary Recovery Program (VRP).
At the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, if the nurse was convicted of a felony, the nurse would be removed from the VRP and be placed into the Disciplinary Monitoring (DMU). The difference between the two programs, is that the DMU is public discipline whereas the VRP is private discipline. Private discipline does not show up on a nurse’s permanent record. Public discipline will show up on a nurse’s permanent record.
Since August, 2013, as soon as the Nursing Board becomes aware of a conviction under the Controlled Substance Act, the Nursing Board is applying for and receiving a Notice and Order of Automatic Suspension. What then happens, is the nurse is notified that his/her nursing license is automatically suspended for 10 years from the date of conviction, effective immediately.
In Pennsylvania, the courts have upheld the Nursing Board’s power to suspend a nurse’s license for ten (10) years after conviction for a felony under the Controlled Substance Act. If you are arrested for diversion of narcotics, you should immediately contact a healthcare lawyer experienced with the Nursing Board. There are often ways to avoid a felony conviction. Many counties have Drug Treatment Courts.
On many occasions, I have been able to convince assistant district attorneys to dismiss felony charges when a nurse is in treatment for an addiction. For over 30 years I have represented nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals in criminal proceedings as well as professional licensing issues. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.