One common question that people ask about the nursing profession is this: “Do nurses have to pass a drug test?” This is a great question, because there are two very important issues facing nurses when it comes to drugs:
- As a nurse, you don’t want drugs to impair your ability to think critically or to act quickly, because you will have other people’s lives in your hands.
- You’ll be working with very powerful drugs that can be very addictive or dangerous, so healthcare facilities want to ensure that you aren’t going to be tempted to use them yourself.
With that being said, are nurses required to take drug tests? Do nurses get drug tested (or face random drug screenings)? The short answer to that question is yes, but let me explain the different ways that you’ll probably be drug tested as a nurse.
Do Nursing Schools Drug Test?
Drug testing may start long before you become a licensed nurse. Some nursing schools will require that you pass a drug test during your physical exam as a part of the admissions process, in addition to providing your vaccination history and so forth.
You’ll be working at healthcare facilities during your clinical rotations, so they want to make sure that you aren’t taking any type of illegal or prohibited substances that could impair your ability to perform your nursing duties.
Drug Testing During the Hiring Process
Once you graduate from nursing school and land your first nursing job, you’ll likely be drug tested again during the hiring process. I took a urine drug test for my first nursing job, and this is just standard protocol for most healthcare facilities. Other facilities may use different drug testing methods, such as hair follicle or a blood test.
Some healthcare facilities have very high standards on what substances they will allow nurses to use, too. For example, some hospitals prohibit (and even test for) tobacco use, and they no longer hire nurses that use tobacco products such as cigarettes.
Obviously, healthcare facilities will vary on what substances they allow nurses to use, and not all of them restrict tobacco. Also, if you have some medical issue that requires taking a valid prescription medication, they will certainly take that into consideration. Nevertheless, the standard is very high for many hospitals when drug testing nurses.
Random Drug Testing in Nursing
In addition to being drug tested during the hiring process, some healthcare facilities will randomly drug test their nursing staff. They might select random workers via a computer program to drug test at certain intervals, or they might drug test someone unexpectedly if they become suspicious of drug activity.
For example, if someone overheard you talking about taking drugs and reported it, or if you’ve posted pictures of yourself taking drugs on social media, that could prompt an unexpected drug test.
Nurse Drug Testing After Incident Reports
Finally, if you ever have an injury or serious incident, many healthcare facilities will require that you take another drug test. This has happened to me at least 2-3 times.
- One time, I had a needlestick injury because someone didn’t dispose of a needle properly, and I had to take a drug test.
- On another occasion, I was accidentally squirted with a radioactive substance used during cardiac stress tests, and I had to take another drug test.
- I also had a freak accident in which my shirtsleeve got caught on a hand sanitizer dispenser, and the machine squirted me right in the eye. I’m pretty sure I had to take a drug test after that one, too.
Yes, Nurses Get Drug Tested
In conclusion, yes, you will likely be drug tested as a nurse. Healthcare facilities will differ on the drug testing methods they use, what substances they will allow nurses to use, and the frequency of the drug tests.
Nevertheless, as a nurse, you can pretty much expect that you’re going to be held to a high standard in this area, and you’ll probably be tested during the hiring process at minimum, as well as random points throughout your nursing career.