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Opioid dependency, diversion and your nursing license

| Feb 2, 2021 | Medical Licensing

You may have worked as a registered nurse for years and are proud of the many ways you help patients. 

An accusation of drug diversion has put your professional license in jeopardy. What does this mean and what can you do to save your career? 

Diversion explained

Diversion is the act of a nurse or other medical professional stealing drugs from the workplace, often a hospital. The person who commits this kind of theft may need drugs due to the pain of an injury or simply due to overwork and stress. According to a 2019 report titled “Health Care’s Hidden Epidemic: A Call to  Action on Hospital Drug Diversion,” the theft of drugs from a hospital is more common than the public realizes. The nurse may divert a drug from a waste receptacle or even from a patient and use it for his or her own benefit. In some cases, someone may employ diversion tactics to sell opioids on the street. 

License in jeopardy

State nursing boards have various definitions of “unprofessional conduct,” which therefore trigger various kinds of disciplinary action. The definitions are broad-based but usually reflect some version of conduct “likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public.” A nurse whose drug diversion activity is discovered could face license suspension or, in the worst case, license revocation. 

Defense strategy

If accused of the diversion of drugs from the hospital where you work, you will want to understand what is at stake from a legal point of view and from the point of view of the State Board of Nursing. The goal of a successful defense strategy is to save your career and keep your professional license intact.