What should you do if you are medical professional with a substance abuse problem or allegations of substance abuse?
If you plead guilty to a felony or a misdemeanor you will certainly receive a letter from OPMC and the only issue will be what level of punishment will be handed to you. The most usual sanction is a Censure and Reprimand which is then posted on the OPMC website. Also, you will have to reveal the sanction to hospitals, insurance companies and almost any other professional entity that you apply to. This is not only embarrassing but it may cause your application to be rejected. Of course, if you have a string of drunk driving convictions you might lose your license or have to go into intensive therapy with random urine testing for perhaps five years. Do not drink and drive!
You first have to understand that if you plead guilty to a felony or misdemeanor you will have admitted that you are guilty of having committed a “crime”. This conviction will no doubt be forwarded to the OPMC. But in any event, when you renew your medical license there will be a question asking have you been convicted of a crime since your last renewal. You must answer “yes” because a “no” answer will be a lie and that answer in and of itself will be “misconduct”. In view of this, you must try to have your criminal lawyer get a plea to a violation as opposed to a felony or misdemeanor. This is truly important since a violation is not a “crime” and therefore does not need to be reported.
If this is your first offense, things will be easier for you. You probably will be sanctioned and receive a fine. The degree of sanction and fine is to some extent dependant on your alcohol level. You also might have to go to substance abuse therapy and you will have to pay for that therapy. Obviously, if this is your second or third offense things get worse. The same is true if your drunk driving caused property damage or personal injury and if you also left the scene of an accident, etc.
One thing a medical professional can do to make things easier in the substance abuse arena is to join a program with the Committee for Physician Health, (CPH). A program with CPH will have you going to meetings on probably a weekly basis and you agree to random drug testing on a routine basis. Often there will be a contract that will last for 5 years for the meetings and testing. OPMC looks very favourably on professionals who have a problem with addiction when they are in this CPH program. It is felt that you are being tested on a frequent basis and should you go back to your addiction you will quickly be discovered and in this way the public is protected.
Check your health insurance policy as it is quite possible that this therapy will be paid for. But, please read your policy carefully as there may be some clauses that limit coverage for this type of “illness”. I know of a situation where the health insurer paid for the first 7 weeks of therapy until the physician was allowed to spend a week-end at home. The insurer refused to pay for the several weeks of additional rehabilitation in the facility on the ground that the therapy was not necessary because the physician had been permitted to go home unsupervised for that week-end.
Take a look at your disability policy, it may replace a great deal of your lost income while you are in Rehab. But you have to understand that not all disability policies are the same. The time to carefully read a disability policy to understand its terms is before you buy it, not when you are sitting in a rehabilitation facility. Talk to your insurance broker about the available coverage to make sure your policy covers as many types of situations as possible.
The answer is a qualified yes. A nurse, like a doctor, must start with rehabilitation therapy and that might convince the Department of Education that the nurse is capable of treating patients without being a danger to those patients. The entire situation has to be handled very carefully with an experienced lawyer.