If you are a nurse or working to become a nurse in the commonwealth of Kentucky, a DUI can impact your ability to practice your chosen profession. If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a DUI in Kentucky, you may be asking yourself: what does this mean for my nursing license?

Reporting Requirements for Nurses in Kentucky

The Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) is the licensing body for nurses in Kentucky. It reviews and approves license applications and validates licenses once they have been issued. Licensed or credentialed nurses, as well as nursing students, are required to report a DUI charge to the KBN. 

What Happens After a Nurse Reports a DUI in Kentucky?

After a report is received by the KBN, it will be reviewed by staff, the KBN, a credential review panel, or a combination of the three. The review process can take months. a personal interview may be involved. 

A nurse facing a review by the KBN should respond promptly, candidly, and honestly. The KBN’s goal is to determine whether you will be a risk to patients in the future as a result of an alcohol or substance abuse problem. 

You may think that you are safe if it’s your first DUI.  But any DUI arrest can be a warning sign of an alcohol or substance abuse problem. 

You may be more likely to face consequences if you were under the influence of prescription drugs. This is because nurses have access to controlled substances and substance abuse is a risk factor for diversion of drugs. Even if it is your first DUI, your nursing license may be at risk. 

If you are facing a second DUI, a third DUI, or a felony DUI, you could be subject to more severe criminal and professional penalties. 

Whether you have been arrested or charged with DUI for the first time or you’re looking at multiple convictions, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer. 

Probationary Monitoring

The KBN has taken disciplinary action as a result of various kinds of violations. Some violations for which disciplinary action has been taken include: 

  • Substance abuse or dependence
  • Diverting narcotics
  • Positive urine drug screen

A license may also be placed on probation for criminal convictions involving drugs or alcohol. 

If a nurse is placed on probation by the KBN, they will have to comply with several requirements. Probation requirements include: 

  • Meeting with a KBN staff member periodically
  • Submitting to random alcohol and/or drug evaluations
  • Ensuring the submission of written reports to KBN by their counselor, employer, or therapist

They may also be subject to supervision or observation during their practice or the administration of controlled substances or other medications. 

Seeking Help for Substance Abuse

Data show higher rates of alcohol abuse among nurses than the overall U.S. population. If you have gotten a DUI and you think your nursing license may be at risk as the result of a substance abuse disorder, there are resources to support your recovery. 

The Kentucky Alternative Recovery Effort (KARE) for Nurses program exists to help nurses with substance abuse disorders. The KBN offers licensees both a self-test for drug addiction and a self-test for alcohol abuse.

It can be difficult to become aware of a substance abuse disorder in yourself or someone you know. Some signs of substance abuse in nurses include: 

  • Absenteeism or being late for work, especially after being off work for several days. 
  • Perfect attendance and even lingering when off duty, if the hospital is the supply source
  • Smell of alcohol on the breath or persistent smell of mouthwash or breath mints
  • Fine motor tremors in the hands
  • Emotional instability
  • Sleepiness or sleeping on duty
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom or frequently returns late from lunch

The risks of nurse impairment due to substance abuse are significant, since inadequate job performance can lead to medication errors, infections, or even death, in some cases.