So along with the upcoming holidays comes the time to renew my nursing license. It’s a biennial requirement, and even though I’m not planning on using it, I want to have the option in case I’m ever asked to volunteer someplace. You just never know…..and besides, there’s always the possibility of finding one of those work-from-home jobs.
However, I’ve been dreading the renewal process because the questionnaire part includes a rather invasive query as to the licensee’s physical and mental health, which of course is a sensitive subject for me. The question reads: “Do you have a physical, emotional or mental condition that impairs or may impair your ability to practice nursing safely? Explain any Yes answer in the space provided.”
I didn’t want to be less than honest, because getting caught lying to the Board of Nursing is one of the worst things that can happen to a nurse. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to disclose my bipolar 1 diagnosis, even though it most certainly has impaired my ability to practice. The trouble is, answering truthfully might mean having to go into a monitoring program that’s designed more for nurses with addiction issues, DUIs, and drug diversion than those with mental illness.
Any nurse unfortunate enough to be placed in this program is basically treated like a criminal—she must call the automated check-in system daily, see the program’s psychiatrists and counselors, and do random observed urine drug screens. She can’t even take a sip of champagne at a wedding or go on vacation without permission from the powers that be. Of course, all of this is at her expense, and it goes on for up to FIVE YEARS.
It’s a tight place to be in, but I knew I couldn’t get around it. I’ve been hospitalized; in some states, psychiatrists are required to report inpatient admissions of health professionals to their licensing boards. I have no idea if my state is one of them, but why take a chance? Besides, it’s a matter of integrity: I might get away with it, but it just wouldn’t be right.
So I took a deep breath and answered the question with a Yes. Where it asked for details, I disclosed my diagnosis, said I was being treated for it (didn’t elaborate on how) and that I haven’t been working. Then I answered the rest of the questions, paid my $150, and hit the Finish button with a silent prayer that the BON wouldn’t hold up my renewal.
The BON site said it would take three to five business days for verification, so I settled in for the long haul and tried to forget about it. But when I went to check my E-mail this afternoon, there it was: the confirmation that my license is active until January 18, 2017!
To say that this was a huge relief would be an understatement. I may not be working as a nurse, but I earned the title of R.N. and I still want to be able to call myself one. Now, unless the stars align in such a way that allows me to work again, I won’t have enough practice hours the next time I need to renew my license, so I’ll be gracious and retire officially. But the fact that the BON doesn’t have a problem with me holding a license despite my “nonconformity” just goes to show that honesty really is the best policy. 🙂