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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:04 am 
Oh boy! I'm sorry neonurse. This is awful. Nobody knows it more than I do....I've been there and done that. My situation was made even worse though because I was diverting drugs from work. Oddly, I wasn't exactly fired. I was called into HR and confronted about all the drugs I had taken out of the Pyxis that were unaccounted for. I didn't try to deny it. The HR director actually was quite kind to me and basically just presented the evidence and told me I needed help and that he felt I must be crying out for help as there was no way I wouldn't have gotten caught with what I had been up to. He of course told me that all this would be reported to the BON. I just wanted out of there. I seriously wanted to just die at that moment, or at the very least just disappear. I cried and said I'd just go....never come back and just surrender my license permanently. I was so ashamed. I remember asking him if I was going to be prosecuted legally and he said "We're not interested in that. We just want you to get help." Obviously, that was a relief, as much as anything could be at that moment. He said something about me seeing the hospital's Employee Physician. I declined. I knew her.....she had been a patient of mine when she was on my unit a while previously. I left and never heard another word. He did tell me the opposite of what you were told, however, about contacting the BON. He said it would look more favorable if I called them before the paperwork hit their desk. He also kind of warned me that it wouldn't be so simple as me just surrendering my license. I did call the BON the very next day. I was spoken to quite respectfully and with a great deal of kindness. That's how my experience with the BON and the Peer Assistance Committee began. I won't go into more of it right now. You can PM if you want more info.
Back to you.....I understand you don't have the old Rx bottle for the Darvocet. Your pharmacy should be able to pull records of all your scripts though, going back at least a year I'm sure, if not more. Or your chart at your doctor's office is a permanent record of everything you've been prescribed. You should be able to obtain your records and find the script that way. If you could obtain that....this whole situation could be changed. Are you sure it was your Rx or did you maybe borrow them from someone else and forget? If the truth is that you can't account for having them, so be it......You just have to start with being honest with yourself. Okay, that's the drug test issue. Maybe something can be done with that....maybe not.
Now the termination issue. You need to see an attorney ASAP my friend! I know it's humiliating and expensive, but I sure wish I would have done so. Even though I was guilty as Hell....I should have been made aware of my rights. I have no idea to this very day. But I often wonder if I would have been able to get some disability or if I should have tried to hold onto my job or if I could have gotten something.....anything. I had worked for many years and had nothing on my record whatsoever until this happened. I just walked away from it all. I don't know if you're entitled to anything or not. But you need to find out. Your insurance benefits will probably be cut off within 30 days. Mine were and to COBRA seemed way to expensive at the time. In hindsight.....I should have found the money and kept my insurance. But I didn't. The BON required an expensive addiction and mental work up and subsequently required me to attend Intensive Outpatient treatment to the tune of several thousand dollars, which I had to pay for out of pocket. So please check into COBRA as Hatmaker suggested.
As far as trying to find a job.....Again, you're in a pickle. I'm pretty sure that as soon as the paperwork from your employer hits the BON, your license will be suspended pending acceptance into your state's version of a program for impaired nurses. So you might be able to obtain employment before that happens, but it will be 'sticky' to say the least. If you're going to be honest, you'll have to tell a prospective employer what's going on and chances are they won't hire you until the issues are addressed. It's just up to you what you want or need to do in that regard. Again, an attorney can guide you on that issue as well.
Things could be worse for you. You haven't done anything illegal that I can see. The ethical question is another story. As nurses, we are held to a much much higher standard than others in the workplace. We are required to be completely 'unaltered' and above reproach when it comes to such things as substance abuse. I've mentioned before that I know some people who landed into this mess by getting a single DUI......a misstep, poor judgement one time and while off duty, not alcoholics by the standards of the BON's Addictionologist. Yet they had to go through the same program that people like me did. WOW, huh?! We just cannot have even the suggestion of impairment, much less a full-blown addiction. You have to remember that the BON's only concern is protecting the public. Another reason that you need an advocate for YOU.....a lawyer.
I hope that your state will allow you to continue on your Suboxone. I have to believe they will look upon you favorably for having already gotten into treatment before this even blew up. You continuing to get better has to be your first priority, no matter how much all these other issues are staring you in the face. You've already taken the first step. As far as starting some other things before the BON tells you exactly what to do.....You could certainly start some 12-step meetings. I can almost promise you that will be one of their requirements. Take a piece of paper with you to the meetings with your name on it and have the person chairing the meeting sign and date it and put a contact phone number on it so you can prove you were there. You could go ahead and have a mental health/addiction evaluation done but it costs money and the BON will probably have a list of their providers that you will have to use anyway, so you may end up having to have the whole thing redone. Same with any other type of treatment. Short of going inpatient somewhere, the BON will dictate what type and where they want you to get treatment.
I know this is a lot, probably information overload right now. Personally, regardless of what you were told, I'd call the BON and get a jump on things, but it's up to you. I'm not going to blow sunshine in your face......You've got a road ahead and I think you know that. But you will be okay. It will take time and commitment to get through this with your license intact, but it can be done. You'll get to know other nurses who are going through the same thing and that will help. Reach out to your loved ones and let them help too.....and us.
I can't emphasize enough. I did not take care of myself during the initial months after my life 'blew up.' I was in survival mode and shame mode to the point that I did no research of my rights or my options for recovery. Do not make the same mistake. Do a search and get in touch with a lawyer who specializes in nurse licensing issues. You will not regret it. I hugely regret that I did not do this. Hang tough my friend. And please remember that you are not a bad person or a bad nurse. You are sick and you can get better. I'm so sorry for what you're going through.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:24 pm 
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I want to add in how bad I feel for what you are going through. I, in many ways, am still living the same nightmare as you are. In fact, mine goes farther with some pending legal issues still hanging over my head, in addition to losing my job. That makes no difference to you at the moment – just understand that I’ve been there.

You have already gotten a huge amount of great advice and it would be pointless for me to say the same things over again. However, I have not seen anyone bring up the following point: Please be very careful about your insurance. You now have a "pre-existing" condition that will make you uninsurable with most insurance companies if you apply on your own. I can't speak to specific group plans should you find another job and simply transfer onto that insurance. However, if you attempt to apply for insurance on your own, you will have to disclose your addiction and that will be a huge flag for getting insurance. If you keep what you currently have, they cannot drop you because of this. However, once you are without insurance, you could find yourself unable to obtain any. My suggestion is to just be very careful with anything you do in this area. Certainly, as SetMeFree, has already suggested, having an attorney will help you in this area as well. Unfortunately, attorneys are not at all cheap either. Of the many things I have learned about this rotten disease is it is very expensive to treat. What makes things worse is that many people with addiction also end up losing their jobs or don't have a job to begin with; making it all that much harder to get treatment. Yes, there is assistance, but that takes time to get as well and I have found that it is most often based on one or two years of financial history. Because you have been employed, you may not qualify. As crazy as it sounds, many times you need to be "poor" for a year or two in order to qualify for financial assistance.

It is so hard to have to do all of these things with everything else that is going on at the moment but you have to find a way to go into protection mode and do all you can to protect yourself in every way that you can. Perhaps finding a job that requires nursing knowledge and experience - but not a nursing license - could be the way to go. Insurance companies, medical device companies, drug reps, etc. all might be options for you in that they often want an RN but not in a clinical sense. Hopefully unemployment payments will help you bridge through this gap. I have no idea how your termination will effect that, but it is again something else to check into.

There are people here on the boards that have gone through or are going through much of what you are right now. We have made it or are making it and you can too. I know it must look like the end of your life at this moment but trust me, you will be able to make it through all of this. You really will. Please keep posting and let us know what we might help you with.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:43 pm 
Oh yes.....donh makes a very good additional point about the insurance issue! There are just so many things you have to think about neonurse. We're sure trying to help you though, even though it may seem like we're bombarding you. I know donh has been through a ton and is still dealing with a ton because of his addiction. He is a smart guy and has done a lot of research on all these issues. I may not be as smart, but if there is anything I can do to help anyone not make the same mistakes or oversights that I made along the way....I will feel like my experiences had some worth!
Please derive any benefit you can from what we have been through and know that we're here for you!


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 Post subject: Hang in There......
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 3:52 pm 
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Hi neonurse,
I just want to add my best wishes to the growing list of supporters!! You have been dealt some shitty cards and I hope you can stay strong and keep your Recovery as a top priority..... Please use US as part of your support system.. We are here even if it's only to listen (read..) to your problems.. So please feel free to Rant away,... :)
You have gotten some good advice. But if I could just add this. In my profession I work with unions and lawyers all the time. My only suggestion is to get your Union on board with you (that's what you paid dues for all those years) and they can probably provide some legal counsel as well.... You have got some good suggestions just try to sort them out one at a time....
I wish you the Best of luck. Your fortunes have to turn around SOON I hope! Again know that we are hear for you any time you need to vent. Keep your chin up. As others have said You have done nothing wrong.......

God Bless
Tom

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 Post subject: I'm back!
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 12:07 am 
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I can't seem to say it enough but it's so great having you guys, with all of your experience and advice, here to support me. It's been a while but I've been alternating between being busy looking for a job and laying in bed in a stupor of depression that I haven't gotten on here. For all of you with union advice, I would give anything to have a union down here in Georgia but you might as well wave a white flag saying "shoot me" on it if you so much as mention that here! I did call HR with the company I was fired from and was informed that my insurance was terminated the same day I was but would be back-dated when I received my COBRA info and decided to elect it. I do plan to purchase COBRA with a little help from my parents but I'm pissed that my insurance didn't last for 30 days after my termination. I thought that was a law! I haven't had a chance to talk to a lawyer yet but that's my next stop. I'm going tomorrow to apply for unemployment but I'm not sure if I qualify since I was terminated due to something that was my fault. I'm going to try anyway and I'm also calling to see if I can get short term disability, which I paid for during my employment. I did call the BON and the lady I spoke with was very nice. She told me that I needed to be the one to report what happened before my employer sent them the information, not the other way around as my director told me to do. Thanks you guys for that tip! I am looking into an outpatient treatment center near where I live that seems to be affordable. I will be calling them tomorrow as well to check into what I need to do. I guess I should probably wait to see what the Board has to say but I'd rather get the ball rolling myself in order to give myself every chance at keeping my license. I am doing great on the Suboxone and my physician is wonderfully supportive and understanding. I am at 4mg twice daily and have had no opiods, or the desire for them, in several weeks. I don't want to get too excited but I think I'm doing okay at least as far as my addiction goes! I know I'm only just starting down that road! One of the bad things about my insurance being terminated is that Sub is $475.00 where I live. Thankfully I had just gotten a refill for a month before my insurance was notified so hopefully my COBRA will be in effect by the time they figure that out! The co-pay is $100 with my insurance! Well, thanks again for listening. I hope everyone is having a great week :D


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PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 10:05 am 
I'm so glad you're back. I'm sure you're having some down days, but overall it sounds like you're really moving forward and taking some positive steps. I think if you apply for unemployment the labor board will at least give you a hearing as the whether it was a fair firing. Maybe your sub doc can support your on that, to let them know you were already in treatment. Also, I was a little worried when you mentionned GOING to treatment, because some places will wean you off Sub, and it sounds like that wouldn't be good for you right now. I hope your Sub doc can give you some good advice about that too. I'm really glad to hear that you're stable in your recovery - that's the most important thing. Youre taking control of your life and I beleive good things are in store for you. I'm glad we have this forum to talk about our issues. It really helps. Please continue to keep us updated.
Lilly


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:02 pm 
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Hi everyone, I know this is an older post but I've been reading it and boy does it bring back a lot of memories. I am an RN. In the 1990s I was working in a hospital, and was diverting narcotics, mainly Demerol. I was into this addiction up to my eyeballs. I could not stop, and I knew that if I asked for help it would mean my license and my ability to work and make a living.

After a while, I was caught. The hospital that I worked for was actually very kind and fair. I was summarily hauled off to rehab. I had to turn in my license and work with the Professional Assistance Program. After getting out of rehab I had to meet with two guys in suits from the DEA who had gone through all of the charts and documented every single dose of medication that had been diverted. Trust me when I say that they weren't fooling around. They were not smiling. I could have gone to jail, but ended up paying a hefty fine and having the felony charges dismissed, because I admitted to what I had done and showed them that I was making an effort to set things right, as best I could. I cannot believe how blessed I was.

After about 6 months the hospital and the state board said I could go back to work with restrictions. I went back and everybody upon everybody knew what I had done. Some were nice, some not so nice. I never made any effort to hide my past. I was not allowed to hold the keys and someone had to watch every narcotic med that I administered. It was humiliating. I was watched like a hawk. When I went back I found out from going to medical meetings that there were two other RNs on my floor who were going to meetings and had been diverting but had not been caught. I had to do random drug screens on call two times weekly for three years. At the end of this time I met with the State Board of nursing and received my license back. I am currently in licensed and in good standing.

Around 2000, unbeknownst to me there were some discrepancies in the narcotic count. One day when I came in to work I was hauled down to the board room and was accused of diverting narcotics. I was quite taken aback by this. I had not been doing so. I offered to give them a drug screen right then and there. (I think I have a pretty good idea about who was doing it but I did not say anything. A few weeks prior to that I had been discussing my past with a newer nurse who had not been there when I went to rehab. That person asked all of these detailed questions about how I actually diverted the drugs without being caught. I didn't think very much of it at the time and told that person exactly how I did it.) I worked at that institution for almost 20 years, but I put in my two weeks' notice the next day. I knew that as long as I was there I would be under a cloud of suspicion and naturally, every time the count was wrong, everyone was looking at me. I couldn't take it anymore.

I found a job somewhere else and worked there until I became disabled with another health problem in 2008. Boy, I can sure sympathize with any nurses who are going through these issues. I've been through a lot, but after a lot of hard work was fortunate enough to come out on the other side. It was not easy.

If anyone wants to talk about this, or had any questions for me, I am here for you. ~Rossma


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:23 pm 
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P.S.

I forgot to say that I read through this and was horrified to learn that being on Suboxone might have an effect on whether I could work as an RN. Although I am currently disabled, I always held on to the the hope that someday I will be able to return to nursing. I tried to read up on my state's nurse practice act but the 60-some page PDF document is too much for this country girl's dial-up computer connection.

I feel more clear headed now on the Suboxone than I have for many years. If this is true, I feel horrible about it. I have worked so hard for my license, it is hard to imagine that I wold not be able to work if I wanted to.

~Rossma


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:48 pm 
Hi Rossma! Thank you for sharing that with us. When I read in your other posts that you were an RN, I wondered if your addiction had ever had an impact on your career. You certainly answered my question! Bless your heart! As you can see, I had the same thing happen to me. It was the most horrible thing I've ever been through in my life. My drug of choice, the diversion that eventually got me caught was Demerol. I think you're the first other person I've heard of that favored Demerol. I diverted quite a bit of Fentanyl as well and I did like it a lot too, but that damned Demerol was the straw the broke the camel's back. I could not get enough of that stuff! I have always felt like I was odd that way, as that particular drug tends to be so nausea-producing. I remember it did make me pretty nauseous at first, but the euphoria it provided was worth it, and of course with a few more uses the tolerance developed and the nausea stopped. So it's interesting to me that you found it to be so horrendously addictive also. So much so, that we gambled everything to keep using it!
I'm truly impressed that you were able to stick it out with BON's assistance program. I just couldn't keep it up and quit after less than one year. I just was struggling so much with my sobriety, even with my license at stake, I did not have the wherewithall to keep going. I had such a hard time with PAWS and that's what finally got me. In the beginning I thought that once I got through the acute withdrawal I'd be home free. Little did I know that was only the beginning of the misery! I was so depressed and unmotivated. In hindsight, I think PAWS was probably made much worse for me because of all the guilt and shame I was carrying around because of what I had done. Like you, everyone knew of what I had done. I lost many "friends" and was the subject of many conversations as this came as such a shock to everyone I had worked with for so many years. I'm better now, but still sometimes go back in my head and the feelings of shame and pain are just about as raw as they were when all this happened for me almost two years ago.
I wish I could say, as you can, that I had made it through the program and retained my license, but I wasn't strong enough. I hope you are proud of yourself because you should be. Anyone who hasn't been through a program like that has NO idea how hard it is! The requirements are unbelievable! But you did it! You can hold your head high knowing that you 'redeemed' yourself for yourself and for your profession.
As far as being able to practice while on Suboxone, I've done a very small amount of research on the issue. It appears that the rules can vary from one state to the next. Most of the Boards' Nurse Practice Acts are somewhat vague by just stating something to the effect of "you can't practice nursing if you are taking any mind or mood-altering substance." Many states, because included in the description of Suboxone/Subutex is the fact that it is a "partial opiate agonist," believe it to be potentially mind/mood-altering and therefore it is prohibited. I know in my state it was a complete, no-exceptions-to-the-rule NO-NO. In fact, part of the reason I voluntarily withdrew from my Peer Assistance Program was because I knew more and more every day that Suboxone was probably going to be my only chance at staying off opiates.
The issue is ridiculous to you and I and any other opiate addict/healthcare professional with access to narcotics! We know that, if anything, being on bupe is like insurance against relapse! If you ask me, everyone who is an opiate addict ought to be required to be on bupe before being allowed access to narcotics again!! I know that sounds a little "out-there," but honestly, I can't imagine being able to be around the narcs again without having an outrageously high liklihood of relapse. That's not to say it can't be done......after all, YOU did it! And I know some others who have too. But my goodness, it must have been difficult! Plus, like you mentioned, working in an environment in which you are always being looked at sideways. You must be a very courageous and strong individual!
I know you are facing surgery soon and that you've been worried about it. After knowing more of your story now....Rossma, you are going to be fine! You are strong and you've been through a whole lot already. There probably isn't much you can't get through!
Thanks again for sharing that. It helps me to know that I'm not the only one who has been through the experience of diverting drugs. I've been so ashamed and felt like such a terrible person for what I did. But hearing from you and Kire and other nurses and healthcare providers who have been there too, makes me feel just a little bit better.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:52 pm 
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Dear SMF:

Please don't be so hard on yourself. You did what you needed to do at the time. It is indeed difficult to get through the professional assistance program. Looking back I don't know how I did it but I was younger then.

After I resigned from the hospital and several years later I had to be hospitalized several times for a catastrophic illness which involved a lot of pain. Because everyone there remembered me and knew what I had done, they took it upon themselves to withhold pain medication, not to mention that many of them were extremely rude. There were many hours when I was just left to lay there and suffer. This is why I am so anxious about the upcoming surgery. But I am going to a different hospital where I don't know them and they don't know me.

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your story with us. ~Rossma


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