Life after suspension/probation


Good morning,

I made a really, really stupid mistake in 2017 to try an illicit drug after a holiday party in my home. Two days later at work an incident occurred with a patient, I do not believe I was impaired but the board suspended my license and gave me a year probation. Luckily, I had an amazing attorney who worked on my case for one year. It has been the most difficult, embarrassing, depressing thing I have ever dealt with in my life. Fortunately I am 4 months into probation and can practice without any restrictions. I was an acute care nurse in the hospital for 8 years, and am not practicing basically at the bottom of my license in a nursing home with LPN’s and mostly just a glorified med-aide. I have applied to literally dozens of jobs, and this has been the only one I was fortunate to get immediately after probation began. I never thought it would be this difficult to find job, let alone feel the sinking despair about my future opportunities.
I am also in graduate school working towards a nurse practitioner’s license, MSN. I am a year into my program and have a 3.8. I started immediately after the incident and positive drug test, so I have proven myself in some ways that I am not a total failure!
My question is this. Has anyone been through this and come out the other side, if so what is your experience? I have been completely up front in all of my interviews, and applications. Mostly, hospitals feel I am a liability and though I have an excellent work history I also screwed up majorly one time and am continually trying to make amends.
Do any managers out there consider this a game ender? I am afraid I am going through graduate school, paying for tuition and likely it will take some time to fully recover and again, prove my sobriety, etc. Though, I must mention I was evaluated by the board and a chemical dependency counselor and found not to have a problem or necessitate treatment. Nonetheless, I take responsibility and have grown and worked on myself during this last year and a half more than I can explain in words.
Any pearls of wisdom, glimmers of hope much appreciated.
Please don’t say anything directly cruel, I’ve already been beating myself up. :wink:
Thank you,


Amanda, I commend your bravery for this post, and I’m sorry about your difficulties. I can’t provide any useful steps for you to navigate your way to where you want to go, but I think your post brings up a number of really important issues.
–I think the healthcare culture/industry reticence to forgive your foray into wherever you went with recreational drugs may be typical of how nurses are treated over this issue. My state nursing commission has a quarterly “newsletter” magazine that until recently had a section I thought of as the Wall of Shame, a public listing of all nurses who have received state “licensure action”. As the state has a very easy to operate, open to the public online license database, it was unclear to me what function this listing had other than public humiliation. If these individuals who transgressed were valued, why would public emphasis be placed on humiliation, rather than rehabilitation to bring them back into the fold?
–Especially give the “nursing shortage", why would the healthcare industry be seemingly so quick to throw away a worker with a significant amount of highly technical training? You must be a highly motivated person, driven to remain in a line of work you love by investing money and effort in studying for an advanced degree. Why would the industry not value your apparent dedication and motivation?
–In my ADN nursing cohort there were several students who were good or even excellent students and seemed like the type of people who would have made stellar nurses, but were booted from the program for youthful drug-related incidents long in their past. Reportedly, the program felt these people would be a liability in the school’s clinical partnerships.
–Is it true that the healthcare industry is more forgiving of doctors and other higher level professions than nurses for drug-related transgressions? I recently read about how certain opioid drug rehab programs offered to doctors and pilots are often highly effective, yet both these jobs certainly have lives resting on their clear judgement. This would seem to indicate that doctors and pilots have drug-related behaviors significant enough to require rehab, and upon completing rehab can expect to go back to doctoring and flying planes.
–Do nurses and/or the healthcare industry hold nurses to a more stringent standard of behavior than other healthcare professions? What is the origin or purpose of these standards, and is it cultural or evidence-based?
–Drugs are somewhat political. In my state cannabis is now legal, even though federally it remains a Schedule I drug, meaning that officially it is seen as having not even valid medical use, let alone being safe enough for recreational use. However alcohol, though clearly responsible for all manner of mayhem, remains widely accepted. Another drug class that decades of newly unearthed evidence has indicated is likely also miscatagorized is psychedelics. Psychedelics are now the subject of renewed study for mental illnesses such as depression, and fear of death in terminally ill patients. So I would hold that just because a drug has been awarded a certain federal classification doesn’t mean that classification is actually supported by evidence. That the drug you took at that party was designated as “illicit” may be just an unfortunate arbitrary fact, and not a sign that the drug was going to damage your brain.
Amanda, I wish you the best of luck with your studies, and hope you can find work in the field you apparently love. We benefit from varied life experiences, and from not being too quick to judge. Our patients benefit from that too, and from providers who have an understanding of life that is a little wider and deeper than the straight and narrow.


Amanda I truly wish you the best in your future endeavors. Your drive and determination to complete a graduate degree is most commendable. Continue to work on your goals and aspirations and though we should never forget about our transgressions along our journeys, the expression that ‘your past is your past for a reason’, deems most appropriate here.

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