Alcohol and drug use and abuse are a long-standing concern in the nursing industry. The Illinois Nurse Practice Act[i] (“Act”) has a provision through which nurses can seek help on their own for intoxication and drug abuse without a duty to promptly report the problem to the state, under certain conditions. The Act directs that individuals with a duty to report, must make that report to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“Department”). The Department is responsible for licensing and regulating healthcare professionals, and their mission is “promote the public welfare by ensuring that licensure qualifications and standards for professional practice are properly evaluated, accurately applied and vigorously enforced.[ii]”
The intoxication and drug abuse section of the Act identifies the nurses with a duty to make a report of any violations of the Act to the Department. Nurses who have a duty to report are administrators or officers in hospitals, nursing homes, nurse agencies and other health care agencies or facilities. The Act charges the nurse with a duty to report to the Department if they have knowledge of any actions or conditions reasonably indicating a licensed nurse is impaired (drugs or alcohol) to the extent the nurse’s ability to perform their profession. Additionally, mere knowledge of possession, use, conversion or diversion of drugs, triggers a duty to report to the Department, generally.
There is an exception to the duty to report drug use if the using nurse seeks treatment on their own.
The exception to the general rule and duty to report applies when a nurse voluntarily participates in professional counseling or medical treatment to remediate substance abuse. The purpose behind this exception to the duty to report is encouragement to get help and treatment for drug abuse before it is too late and the Department has no choice other than to suspend or a revoke a nurse’s license and privileges. In many of the licensed professions, people hold their “personal” problems close to their chest and do not dare let anyone know. The bigger problem in that scenario is the nurse may think they are functioning properly but they may not be, and patients can be wrongfully harmed as a result. Being able to “nip it in the bud” is the legislative purpose of the self-enrollment in treatment exception to the duty to report to the Department.
The details of the Act and its exceptions to filing reports are complex and a may require a lawyer.
In the event a nurse worried about their problem with drug use decides to seek treatment, or another assisting the individual gets involved in the process there are certain immunities from civil or criminal penalties that become available. The details of the intoxication and drug abuse sections of the Act are complex and it is important to make a proper record of events involved for the benefit of all those who are covered by the Act. A healthcare licensing attorney and consultant is valuable in this process through which nurses who think they might have a problem can get the help they need before they end up in a disciplinary setting, risking the suspension or loss of their license to practice.
When a nurse’s license, career and freedom from civil and criminal penalties are in jeopardy, Michael V. Favia is the professional licensing attorney and consultant in Illinois to whom many turn for advice and representation. Being a past chief prosecutor for the Department, Favia knows the system well.
Michael V. Favia & Associates are available to assist nurses and healthcare professionals with professional licensing matters. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates’ professional licensing work, please visit www.IL-Licensing.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.