As a nurse, you probably inherently know that certain behaviors can place you at risk for losing your nursing license. For example, you would likely never come to work intoxicated, steal medication from the drug room or purposely abuse a patient. However, did you know that certain behaviors that occur in the privacy of your own home can place your career in jeopardy?
It surprises many nurses to learn that the California Board of Registered Nursing does not exist to protect the licenses and careers of nurses. Rather, its duty is to protect the public by ensuring that you perform your nursing duties to the highest standards. The board will investigate and potentially prosecute any behavior on the part of a nurse that suggests a nurse may endanger patients or mar the public's trust in the profession, even if those behaviors do not happen within hospital walls.
Criminal activity off the clock
A nurse's alcoholism or chronic drug use may understandably trigger a board investigation into the nurse's fitness. However, what about a DUI? Many people who face DUI charges do not have substance abuse issues that would place patients in harm's way. Nevertheless, if a court convicts you of DUI, even your first and only impaired driving charge, it is possible that the board will view your actions as unprofessional, demonstrating a lack of concern for the welfare of others.
Other criminal convictions or no contest pleas that may result in a board investigation include:
- Child support delinquency
- Violation of restraining order
- Tax delinquency
Of course, offenses related to controlled substances may be especially difficult to defend before the nursing board since board members may see such violations as a reflection of your moral ability to administer medications to your patients.
Social media is not always so friendly
A serious element of your private life to consider is your use of social media. Many who believe their posts are personal and should not affect their professional lives are shocked to find themselves accused of violating patient privacy through Facebook posts. Even seemingly innocent and vague statuses about patients can lead to trouble, and certainly, the posting of a patient's picture on your social media can easily lead to disciplinary actions or worse.
Advocates for nurses recommend avoiding any social media references to the job or patients as the best way to prevent negative consequences. Even if you feel the urge to vent about your supervisor or co-workers, you may regret the outcome if the board summons you to answer accusations of unprofessional conduct. Nevertheless, in the event you must face a disciplinary hearing to defend your license, you have the right to seek legal counsel.