In 2006, the legislature directed the Department of Health (DOH) to adopt rules about mandatory reporting of health care practitioners who commit unprofessional conduct or unsafe practices. Part of this regulatory scheme requires self-reporting in certain circumstances.
The DOH adopted these rules on March 31, 2008 and can be found in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 246-16. They cover all practitioners regulated under the umbrella of the department secretary, a board, or a commission. Nurses fall under this criteria.
The rules can be found in WAC 246-16. See https://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-16. You can direct an inquiry directly to Washington State Department of Health, 30 Israel RD SE, Olympia WA, 98501-7860, or call 360-236-4700, but some general guidelines can also be found here.
WAC 246-16-230 requires self-reporting of “any conviction” or “unprofessional conduct” and WAC 346-16-220(3) mandates the report be made within 30 days of actual knowledge. WAC 246.16-210 defines “conviction” to include gross misdemeanors and felonies, even when a deferred sentence is granted. It does not, however, include simple misdemeanors. For driving offenses, a DUI, reckless driving or reckless endangerment conviction would be subject to mandatory reporting but a negligent driving conviction would not. RCW 18.130.180 defines “unprofessional conduct” to include moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption related to the nursing profession. A DUI offense generally does not fall within this standard, however evidence of abuse of controlled substances might.
Any active nurse, or student nurse enrolled in a program dedicated to achieving nursing licensing, should know that a single DUI conviction is not a bar to licensing. The department has a somewhat humanistic approach to licensing and recognizes that one mistake in the form of a criminal charge or conviction does not accurately reflect applicant’s overall qualifications. Any period of probation also does not necessarily bar an applicant. The disclosure of charge and final result may be necessary to assess the applicant’s honesty, which is a criteria for licensing, so omitting the original charge and only disclosing the end result will do more harm than good.
While a single DUI charge is unlikely to have a detrimental licensing consequences, multiple charges are more problematic. The time between the charges is a factor worthy of much consideration – the closer the two charges are in time, the more likely the licensing department is to find that that applicant likely is a substance (alcohol) abuser. Also, because a nurse must exercise sound judgment and has access to potent medications, a practicing nurse or potential nurse applicant will need to demonstrate that they pose no danger. Obviously, someone who abuses, or is dependent upon addictive substances, will have more difficulty overcoming this hurdle than someone who has only been arrested once.
Finally, keep in mind that employers may have their own reporting requirements that include mandatory employee reporting of arrests and/or charged offenses in addition to conviction information. You should consult your Human Resources Department for individual requirements within your company or agency.