HEALTH CARE

Ex-nurse: Louisiana board marijuana policy ended her career

Despite the relaxation of marijuana laws in Louisiana over the past five years, registered nurses still face significant career risks when using marijuana for recreational and, in some cases, medical purposes.

The Louisiana Employment and Medical Marijuana Task Force heard testimony Tuesday from former nurse Shonda Bloom. She said her off-duty cannabis use and her one drug screening prior to her employment effectively destroyed her 12-year career and permanently labeled her as a criminal. I’m telling you how.

It is one of a series of meetings held by the task force to influence legislation to protect workers who use medical marijuana on doctor’s recommendation.

Broom became a registered nurse in 2005 and spent the latter half of her career running a self-employed business that primarily provided home health care services to the elderly before closing her business and joining a hospital in July 2016. In an interview with illuminatorshe applied for a job at the Thibodaux Regional Medical Center that November and had to take a pre-employment drug urine test. I said that I am

Louisiana Commission Dives Into Medical Marijuana Workplace Issues

The results were positive for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. She later learned that the drug was detected in her urine for several weeks after using it.

For Bloom, who was 36 at the time, it was the beginning of the end of her career.

Investigation

Before applying for a new job, Broom waited about a month to make sure there were still no traces of marijuana in her body. She found a new employer and she was hired after passing another drug test.

But within five months of working at her new job, Bloom told the task force that word of her first failed drug screening reached the Louisiana Board of Nursing, which launched an investigation.

At the time of that initial drug screening, Bloom said he was smoking cannabis occasionally to treat depression and high blood pressure, but had no doctor’s prescription or recommendation yet.

The Louisiana legislature legalized medical marijuana earlier that year, but few patients actually received the drug because of quirks in the law about the word “prescribe.” It eventually rewrote the law to say that doctors could “recommend” marijuana rather than “prescribe” it, bypassing various regulatory hurdles for prescribing controlled substances. Federal law still designates this plant as a Schedule I drug. In short, some states have legalized medical cannabis, but have not approved it for medical use.

Bloom said she waived her professional license rather than accept an involuntary suspension following an investigation by the State Nursing Board. Her last day of service as a nurse was April 26, 2017 it was day

“Not only will I be unable to work as a nurse, but background checks will reveal the discipline,” she told the panel. ”

According to the board’s disciplinary record for the incident, Bloom could have accepted the suspension and reapplied for his license later, but the process required him to complete a rigorous drug treatment program described in the consent order. The requirements listed included, among other things, completion of a rehabilitation program and a probationary period that included random drug screening, professional monitoring, and periodic psychiatric or substance abuse assessments. rice field.

Bloom was only allowed to work in a restricted environment under the direct supervision of a medical professional and was forbidden to dispense medications to patients. It would have had to be submitted to a committee and she would have had to notify her new employer of the treatment plan. Additionally, the agreement required Broom to pay various fines and fees totaling over $1,200.

Strict Discipline Deemed Success

In a telephone interview, Karen Lyon, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Nursing, said nurses who fail drug screening, whether for marijuana, alcohol, or more potent drugs such as opioids, should be treated like this. Conditions are usually tougher for nurses who use substances on duty or show signs of disability at work, she said.

For minor violations, such as off-duty marijuana use, nurses can apply for reinstatement within six months of suspension if all the provisions of the consent order are met, Lyon said. increase. They are still under probation and must comply with drug tests, surveillance, and other conditions for five years.

Lyon acknowledged that such disciplinary measures were harsh, but said the board had confirmed a recovery rate of about 95% for nurses who agreed to those terms.

“We’re trying to create a treatment program that keeps patients safe and helps nurses recover,” she said. “Our program has been very successful.”

Nurses who have legitimate medical marijuana recommendations may be subject to commission investigation if they show signs of impairment while on duty or fail drug screening. Investigations are often closed without disciplinary action if you can show a doctor’s certificate showing that you are fit for the job, she said.

In such cases, the Board may issue a “Letter of Concern”. This is an unofficial disciplinary action that the board has on file, Lyon said.

For a while, Bloom said she was ashamed of what happened and never spoke about it. I saw what she called the absurdity of the disciplinary standards.

Bloom told the task force that the Louisiana Board of Nursing uses outdated disciplinary standards that are far more stringent than the National Board of Nursing (NCSBN) guidelines.

NCSBN recommends minimal disciplinary action for situations like Bloom. His 2018 guidelines include various cases of nurses testing positive for marijuana. In jurisdictions where recreational marijuana remains illegal, such as Broom’s, where there are no allegations of disability at work, the NCSBN recommends that the Board of Nursing issue a “Non-Disciplinary Concern Letter.” This is the same disciplinary standard as the Louisiana Commission. Applies to nurses who have a doctor’s recommendation for the plant.

Shonda Bloom speaks before a panel of medical professionals at an event in Houma, Louisiana on April 20, 2022 about how marijuana can help veterans. (Photo submission)

When asked why the Louisiana Board of Nursing did not adopt the 2018 NCSBN guidelines, Lyon pointed out that the NCSBN is not a regulatory body. NCSBN is a membership organization that conducts research and recommends regulatory practices for state nursing boards. The guidelines are not mandatory, she said.

Bloom feels the state commission is not fully aligned with the legislature’s position on marijuana.

“They are choosing to ignore it, and their ignorance has cost me a lot,” Bloom said, adding that the board has permanently identified her as some sort of unemployed criminal. He added that he classified them. [on a background check], I appear to have committed fraud and abuse and my employer will immediately disqualify me without further investigation. ”

Disadvantages of drug screening

Broom also told the task force that licensing boards should stop using drug screening as evidence of impairment.

At a meeting last week, Troy Prebott, a task force member and physician assistant who conducts employment drug screening, said many workplace policies and government regulations are outdated and that a positive drug test is still a sign of addiction. It is based on the erroneous belief that it is an indicator.

None of the available laboratory drug tests can tell you exactly when a person has used drugs, especially cannabis. The NCSBN notes this in its guidelines, also stating that “current laboratory tests cannot provide objective thresholds for establishing disability.”

“Someone may have used [marijuana] Two weeks in a row, two weeks off, applying for a job, failing that exam, and what happened over a month ago destroyed their lives,” Bloom told the panel.

Peter Robbins-Brown, task force member and executive director of Louisiana Progress, said he hopes more people like Bloom will share their experiences. The task force hopes to find out how many nurses and other professionals have lost their professional licenses due to drug screening failures, he said.

Bloom is currently working as a consultant. Her company, D4N Consulting, provides training and assistance to businesses and other organizations wishing to develop workplace policies regarding employees undergoing drug screening and medical marijuana treatment.

“I think the problem is that people are still being punished for off-duty use,” she told the panel. …it’s possible, but realistically, it’s more than just gummy bears in the boss’s face.A lot of the punishment is for off-duty use.”

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