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Do Nurses Get Drug Tested?

Do nurses get drug tested? It's one of the most frequently asked questions about this profession and one that becomes more pertinent in an age of legalized marijuana.

In the following guide, we'll answer questions such as:

  • Will you be expected to pass a drug test as a nurse?
  • Are you allowed to use medical marijuana?
  • What happens if you test positive?
  • Will you be subject to random drug testing?
  • Why are nurses drug tested?

Do Nurses Get Drug Tested?

The short answer is yes, you can expect to be drug tested as a nurse, and those tests may start sooner than you expect.

You could be subjected to a drug test during your school admissions process, as well as at random times throughout your career.

There are two main reasons that these tests occur.

Firstly, nurses have access to very powerful narcotics, including some of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. The hospital needs to know that you won't be tempted to use these drugs yourself.

Drugs also impair your ability to think. They may make you tired and sluggish or wired and nervy. In any case, you'll be more prone to making mistakes and in a clinical setting, those mistakes could be deadly.

You might think that you're able to function optimally with drugs in your system but put yourself in the patient's shoes for a moment—would you be comfortable knowing that the person taking your blood, administering your medications, and cleaning your wounds is high?

Probably not.

There may be some exemptions for prescription medications, assuming they have actually been prescribed, but it depends on the medication, dose, and the hospital conducting the test.

Do Schools Drug Test Nursing Students?

Yes, many nursing schools drug test their students during the admissions process. This can obviously be a concern for users in states like California, where marijuana is legal and widely consumed, but you will always be held to a very high standard as a nurse and shouldn't assume that drug use is acceptable just because it's legal.

Additional tests will be conducted when you graduate from nursing school and apply for your first job.

Some hospitals even prohibit tobacco use. These nicotine-free facilities outlaw the use of tobacco products onsite and also test employees to ensure they're not using them in their own time. It's less about patient safety and more about employee wellness, as tobacco products are one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.

If you work in a nicotine-free facility, you should abstain from all products that contain this common stimulant, including cigarettes, cigars, vapes, nicotine inhalers, and nicotine gum.

Do Hospitals Randomly Drug Test Nurses?

You may be drug tested at random intervals to ensure you're continuing to abstain from drug use. Drug tests are usually ordered if your employer suspects drug use (posting pictures with joints on social media, talking about drug use, displaying symptoms of drug use, etc.), and if there has been a serious incident.

For example, if strong opioids or benzodiazepines go missing on your shift, you could be subjected to a random drug test to ensure you weren't the one who stole them.

How Often Do Nurses Get Drug Tested?

It depends on whether or not you're displaying any signs of drug use or making any suspicious mistakes. It also has a lot to do with your location and your employer.

In many cases, if you are an exemplary nurse who doesn't make any mistakes or show any signs of substance abuse, drug tests will be very infrequent.

Do Nurses Get Drug Tested in Nursing Homes?

The drug testing process for nursing home employees is much the same as it is for those working in hospitals and clinics. You will likely be tested when you apply for the job and random drug testing may occur if they have reason to suspect substance abuse.

What Kind of Drug Test Do Nurses Take?

Most nurses are given urine tests.

A urine test is cheap, easy, and effective. It delivers fast results and will detect drug use over a period of several weeks.

The exact length of time that a drug remains in your system will depend on your weight, diet, lifestyle, and the quantity/type of drugs used.

Blood tests are also performed, although they are rare. A blood test will detect recent drug and alcohol use and determine whether the subject was under the influence at the time of the test. Saliva tests work in a similar way and as they are cheaper, they may be a preferred option.

Hair follicle tests can also be conducted. A hair follicle drug test detects chronic use over a period of several months and can determine if someone is a heavy or habitual user.

Can I Refuse a Drug Test?

Drug testing is part of the job and you are expected to comply with these tests as and when needed. Refusal to do so may lead to a suspension of your license.

What Happens if a Nurse Fails a Drug Test?

A positive drug test is never a good sign for a nurse, or anyone else in the healthcare profession. It could lead to a suspension and a rehab program. If your drug use resulted in a serious incident and patient harm, your license may be suspended.

Ultimately, it depends on your history, employer, and the outcomes of your drug use.

Summary: Do Nurses Get Drug Tested?

As marijuana laws change and employers struggle to fill vacant roles, the practice of drug testing employees is increasingly shunned. But there are a few sectors in which you will still be drug tested as both an applicant and an employee, and that includes healthcare.

Drug tests are a part of life for nurses, doctors, and surgeons. You will likely be tested at nursing school, when you apply for a job, and at random intervals throughout your career.

If you want to have a long and successful career in the nursing profession, it's best to abstain from drugs completely, even if they are legal in your state.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you