Nurses are in the business of caring. They wish to act with the best of intentions. However, life happens. Some nurses, like many others, like to unwind, visit friends or family, and enjoy a drink or two. So what happens when a nurse is convicted of a DUI?

It depends on the state as well as the state's board of nurses. First, the nurse will be disciplined just as any other person would be based on local and state laws. DUI convictions may include jail time, fines, mandatory AA/NA meetings or other treatment, and community service. Having a DUI may also result in a vehicle impound, revocation of a driver's license, court hearings, and heavy court costs. It can last months or more. Not to mention, a DUI resulting in an injury or death can lead to lifelong guilt, depression, and even severe prison sentence.

Most of us are aware of the standard DUI outcomes. Nurses (and those in similar professions) have other hurdles to overcome. They may face discipline from their state board of nursing. Each state has different regulations for DUIs. Some nursing boards look at the circumstances around the conviction, prior record of DUIs, as well as a statement of what the nurse is doing to prevent future infractions. State nursing boards need to ensure that the licensee is not a risk to public safety, or a danger to themselves. The board might look at whether it is a felony conviction or if the incident led to death or injury.

Discipline from the board result in a few different things. The nurse may be placed on probation for a length of time. The nursing license could be revoked or suspended. Sometimes the nurse may be able to continue working, but must be supervised. Again, this depends on the DUI and the state board. Also, it's important to note that employers may have their own policy regarding nurses convicted of DUI. Employers may discipline, suspend or even terminate employees.

It may be tempting not to report a DUI to the board of nursing. This is a bad idea, as it may be reported by law enforcement, or they may find out by other means. Discipline may be more extensive if a nurse tries to sweep it under the rug. If arrested for a DUI, a nurse should contact an attorney right away.

It's pretty safe to say that getting convicted of a DUI is a life-changing event, and can be even more so for a nurse. Nurses should display comportment in and outside the workplace and consider public safety in every facet.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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