Can an RN who wants to dispute a positive drug test before the board of nursing do so alone?

By | 2021-05-28T17:24:20-04:00 February 13th, 2015|3 Comments


Dear Nancy,

I was turned into the board of nursing for a positive drug test, but I have never taken these drugs. Do I explain myself to the BON or do I need legal advice? I am working on getting a license in another state and planned to let my current license lapse in October before I even knew a complaint had been filed. I am terrified I am going to lose my license.


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Esther,

If the urine test was truly negative, you would not be the first person to have a false positive with such a test. There are many potential problems with urine testing if the sample is not collected, labeled and stored correctly. For example, a urine test improperly labeled as belonging to you might not be yours. Most often, urine tests are split into two specimens with the same control number on them, so if a second confirmatory test has to be done (to confirm a first positive test), there is another portion of the first sample to test. It may be your initial sample was not handled properly in this regard.

A second problem with urine samples is a drug or drugs that shows up on the screening panel as positive may be due to a perfectly legitimate medication prescribed by your physician, or an over the counter medication comes up as positive for those unacceptable positive readings such as barbiturates, due to the components of the medications taken.

Because this is a serious allegation, you need to retain a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who can defend you against these allegations. He or she will need to have factual information about your medical situation and any medications you were taking at the time of the test, how the test was obtained, and the reasons the test was done (for cause, random), in addition to other information.

The attorney may be able to resolve this matter informally (e.g., a pre-hearing conference) or the allegations may be formalized in a complaint. If the latter is the case, you would have a hearing to determine the evidence presented to a hearing officer. Each hearing is governed by the state’s nurse practice act and administrative statutes and rules and therefore differs somewhat in each state.

The hearing is much more involved and requires witnesses, sworn testimony and the burden of proof must be met by the BON; that is by “clear and convincing evidence” for example, that the allegations are true. If you can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, for example, the allegation is not true, then the hearing officer rules in your favor. If you have an adverse ruling against you, the hearing officer’s decision can be reviewed in the state’s judicial system through what is called a judicial review.



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  1. Avatar
    Susan November 10, 2017 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    I tested positive today on a pre employment drug test. The Human Resources nurse sent the sample out for further testing all the while reassuring me it was probably explained by my prescriptions. I was so upset because I knew that I had not taken any drugs. I decided to be proactive. So after I left there I vquickly went to a different lab and had a ten panel done and also a hair follicle test done. Now I wait. It’s scary when you try so hard to build a life and it can all be taken away by an inaccurate test.

    • Avatar
      July August 9, 2018 at 8:06 am - Reply

      What has happened since then?

  2. Avatar
    Marieta August 14, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I was given a drug test in re: to incident at work. & received a call telling me that I tested positive for opioids. I have never taken any drugs!!!!i was taking Cipro for a UTI at the time. Meanwhile, I red online that indeed that quinolone may cause a false positive reading. My life is on hold, I was fired on the spot. In desperation, I payed & I did hair follicle test which turns not to be accepted in my company. Results will be here in 2 days.They made me call the same lab & the lab now is trying to repeat the same test, telling me that no one passed it! Any suggestions? I think we who experienced such a non sense should to go to the media regards to this awful iniquity!

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