Being charged with a DWI is embarrassing, expensive and stressful. But if you are a nurse who has been convicted of a DWI while you were off duty, then the stakes are even higher. Your livelihood could be at risk.
After being convicted of drunk driving, it is likely that you will be investigated by the Texas Board of Nursing. It is not likely that a first conviction will result in disciplinary actions, but it could if the BON finds evidence that questions your fitness to care for patients.
The BON investigation process
The BON investigation process is not a fun experience. When the BON initiates an investigation, the purpose is to determine if you have violated the Nursing Practice Act (NPA) by committing a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude that is directly related to your profession.
Is getting a DWI while off duty related to the practice of nursing? In most circumstances, no. Unless the nurse is on her way to or from work or on call at the time of the DWI, then it would not seem to affect his or her professional at all.
However, the BON is known for taking the position that all criminal conduct is unprofessional conduct and therefore relates to the practice of nursing.
BON investigators may meet with your colleagues or superiors, ask you to submit to chemical dependency screening or pressure you into taking a lie-detector test in effort to determine if you could have a substance abuse problem or your character puts patients in harm's way.
If the BON discovers anything else during the investigation that questions your conduct, it could also be used against you, especially if it suggests a drinking or drug issue.
What action the BON can take
If the BON makes the determination that you are in violation of the NPA, potentially affected by addiction or mental illness, or you have engaged in conduct that put patients at risk, you could potentially face license suspension or revocation, mandatory alcohol or drug treatment, or other disciplinary actions, all of which become public record.
What a nurse should do after a DWI
Following a DWI, you should speak with a qualified attorney as soon as the BON opens an investigation. The BON can be very aggressive and unforgiving when it comes to these investigations and so you need someone protecting your rights and standing up for your true character.
The BON has a lot of discretion when it comes to disciplinary actions and "policing" the nursing industry, and sometimes they take it too far. With your livelihood and the degree you worked so hard to achieve on the line, you can't afford to take whatever consequences the BON throws at you.
You have every right to a lawyer during a BON investigation, and you will not regret having one on your side.