It is amazing how many searches there are on Google for “can you have a DUI and be a nurse?” While I can only speak to prospective nurses in California, the answer is YES! In fact, we have helped thousands of nurses get and keep their RN licenses, following a DUI.

The Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) takes DUI arrests and convictions very seriously. This is because a DUI is a violation of the Nurse Practice Act in that it is a conviction that can be “substantially related” to the practice of nursing. This makes perfect sense if you think about it. If you as a nurse are arrested and subsequently convicted of a DUI, the criminal justice system has determined that you were using alcohol in a manner that was dangerous to yourself and others. As a nurse, your job is to protect and provide care and those in the medical community take an oath to “do no harm”. Certainly, a driving while under the influence has the potential to do harm. But you already know this. You already feel horrible about it. I know that thousands of very good people who would never intentionally harm anyone have been convicted of a DUI and my job is to make this better, not to make you feel worse by citing codes and regulations you’ve violated. It is however, important for you to know the reasoning behind the BRN’s actions, so that I can explain how we help you get and keep your RN license if you are a nurse or nurse applicant with a DUI.

There are a few critical issues at play with a DUI arrest and conviction that determine if you will get your RN license free and clear without restrictions, or if you are a nurse, if your license will be subjected to formal discipline. When you call me, these are the 3 things I will want to know:

  1. Is this a first DUI?
  2. Was there an accident and if so, was anyone injured?
  3. What was your BAC?

With a second DUI, it is pretty hard to convince the BRN that you learned your lesson the second time and will never drive under the influence again. If there was an accident, especially one with an injury, you have actually “caused harm” and were in fact, dangerous to yourself and others. If your BAC is .18% and above, you were more than double the legal limit. In any of these situations, the likelihood of your initial RN license application being denied or your existing RN license having an Accusation files against it, is high.

This does not mean that you cannot have a DUI and be a nurse, even with a second DUI, an accident or a high BAC, you can. But the reality is that your RN license is going to subjected to some sort of formal discipline by the BRN. Nurse applicants will have their applications denied, will have to appeal the denial and argue what is called the “Statement of Issues,” or the legal basis for the denial. RNs will receive an Accusation calling for revocation of their RN license and will have to argue for a lesser form of discipline. The result in each case, is the RN license will be issued a letter of public reprimand or reproval (the desired result), placed on probation with a Rule Out Provision (second best option), or placed on probation with all 19 probation requirements. You can read more about these forms of discipline by clicking the above links.

The good news is that in over 99% of the thousands of nurse DUI cases we have handled, we have been able to get our student nurses their RN licenses and have defended every single RN against suspension or revocation of their RN licenses. If you are a student nurse getting ready to apply for your RN License with a past DUI, or if you are a RN and received a DUI, please give me a call. While I cannot promise that there will not be some consequences to your RN license, I can promise that you will be able to keep it and I can promise that you can have a DUI and still be a nurse.