The 3 most common ways for a Nurse to lose their license

Most nurses live in fear of losing their license. It actually isn’t that easy to have it taken away and typically takes some egregious acts to convince a state board to do so.

Still, some actions are so awful that a license seizure is the only way to assure the safety of patients. In the end, the decision is about the patients and whether it’s safe for the nurse to work with them.

If you have done something that makes you fear you may lose your license, you can probably rest easy. If anything, you may experience a suspension.

However, if you have been caught in one or more of these three actions, you may find your license in peril. Take care to steer far away from these activities.


Taking medicines – any medicines – is likely to get your license revoked. Of course, the most commonly diverted medicines are narcotics, but benzos, sleeping pills, and anti-psychotics can also raise red flags.

The point is to not take medicines from the med room unless you are giving them to patients. Okay, that’s a “DUH!” statement, but many nurses are caught diverting every year.

If you have a substance abuse problem, then you need to seek help from management. Usually, if you go through rehabilitation, your license will not be taken.

However, you will still be watched closely. In short, don’t do it, because you will almost certainly lose your license if you are caught.

Breach of Privacy

Every nurse knows the tenets of HIPAA, but breach of privacy can be much worse than simply having a passer-by glance at a charting screen. You can very easily break a patient’s privacy by telling the wrong person the wrong information.

Unfortunately, breach of privacy is a very easy trap to fall into, and you probably won’t lose your license over inadvertent breaches. However, if you are spreading gossip about a patient, communicating statuses to the press, or telling nosy neighbors about a patient’s condition, then you may find yourself in trouble with the board.

Privacy is an important part of the nurse-patient relationship. When this trust is broken, it not only hurts the nurse, but the whole profession.

Take care with privileged information. If you severely break these rules of privacy, you may find that you are not a nurse anymore.


Besides diverting, negligence is probably the most common reason for losing your license. Negligence means that you should have acted, but you failed to do so.

For instance, if a patient showed a high blood pressure, you would be obligated to take actions to lower that pressure. If you didn’t, the patient could suffer a bad outcome because you failed to act.

Of course, some negligence is minor, or it is caught in time. Negligence that results in severe injury or death of the patient is almost guaranteed to cost you your license – and probably your freedom, too.

For the safety of the patient, negligence is severely punished. Even for minor infractions, you will likely get written up and possibly suspended from your job.

Certainly, it takes a major act to lose your license, but it isn’t impossible. Do the best you can, report your mistakes, and always take heed of how you are practicing in your profession.

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