Sex, Drugs, Alcohol & Prescription Medicine: When Can Your Personal Life Jeopardize Your License to Practice?


Alex Fisher and Erin Tolbert, the creator of MidlevelU, discuss personal and professional boundaries for health care professionals. The original article and video, published on MidlevelU, can be found here. Although Erin and Alex discuss personal and professional boundaries in the context of nurse practitioners, the same advice applies to other health care providers.

Romantic Involvement with Patients

The most important question to ask when considering romantic involvement with a patient is “Is this a former or current patient?”. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants should never date current patients. Should you find yourself interested in a patient, first and foremost transfer their medical care to another provider in the practice before proceeding. If you do proceed, do so with caution or you could find yourself charged with sexual misconduct. This blog post from MidlevelU outlines the ins and outs of what’s allowed when it comes to romantic involvement with a former patient.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Use of substances like drugs and alcohol can carry consequences even if they don’t affect your job performance. Many employers prohibit drug use among employees, so even if use of certain substances is legal in your state and won’t affect your licensure status, it could leave you unemployed. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants working unconventional hours need to be careful when it comes to alcohol consumption. Avoid drinking before the night shift, even if you have an event to attend before clocking in.

Prescription Drug Use

Chronic use of medications that may impair performance is looked upon unfavorably by employers and licensing boards. The best way for healthcare providers to deal with issues like chronic pain is to pursue alternative treatment methods. If you are taking prescription medications, consistency is key. Make sure you are taking your medications as prescribed. Start new prescriptions that may have detrimental side effects when you have a few days off work so you know how they will affect you. Don’t show up impaired at work or you could lose your license, prescription or not.