Journal of Nursing

Sanctions Against Texas Nurses On The Rise


In Texas there has been a substantial increase in nurses being disciplined by the state and losing their licenses.

Year after year, nursing ranks as the most trusted profession in the country, but even nurses make mistakes. The state is citing them for one type of crime more than any other.

Dante Fair found that out the hard way. The 29-year-old father died after registered nurse Dana Tackett hit him head-on driving the wrong way just outside of Killeen on Highway 130 in 2013.

Hours before, Tackett left a hospital and went drinking. Tests revealed her blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit.

"Once I found out that she was a registered nurse, [I thought] you should have been at the scene helping, not causing the accident," said Julia Fair, Dante's mother.

A jury sentenced Tackett to 15 years in prison, and she lost her nursing license. Tackett is one of nearly 1,000 Texas nurses in trouble with the law over the past two years.

Linda Woodman, a registered nurse in Austin, also hit and killed someone while under the influence. Tonya Baker is another nurse. Law enforcement arrested the former Round Rock school nurse for possession of meth in 2013.

The rate of registered nurses losing their licenses or getting sanctioned have markedly increased. In 2003, the state sanctioned and revoked 1,090 licenses. Last year, it climbed to 2,025, an 85 percent increase.

Complaints against registered nurses:
2003: 2,378
2014: 9,411

Licenses Revoked: 
2003: 150
2014: 259

Licenses Sanctioned:
2003: 940
2014: 1,766

The Texas Board of Nursing said those numbers represent a small portion of all nurses.

"I would point out that still remains sort of less than two percent of our population," said Dusty Johnson, the board's general counsel.

Johnson attributed the increase to more people getting into the profession and tougher background checks.

The state's registered nurse population has increased 55 percent, from 176,757 in 2203 to 274,143 in 2015

Until 2005, the state allowed nurses to self-report crimes. Nurses must now provide finger prints when renewing their licenses.

It was also found most nurses sanctioned by the state for committing crimes involved drugs or alcohol. Some were caught stealing prescriptions and others were arrested for DWI.

"It certainly puts the patient at risk, and we have a primary obligation as nurses for patient safety," said Cindy Zolnierek, the executive director for the Texas Nursing Association.

While nurses can get in trouble for not reporting a DWI, the state still gives them a free pass on their first offense.

"A single DWI. If that's all a nurse ever did, that should not result in any disciplinary action," said Johnson.

Dante's widow, Amanda Luttmer, thinks the state should have a no-tolerance policy.

"You just expect more out of those people, I guess you can say," said Luttmer.

If the state identifies a nurse with a drug or alcohol problem, they can admit themselves into a voluntary rehab program to keep their license.

To report a problem with a nurse, contact the Texas Board of Nursing.


Articles in this issue:

  • These examples of the nurses that were caught is so sad. Alcohol and drug abuse is an illness so these people could be considered as practicing impaired. There is no excuse in letting your guard down after you have worked a shift and then hitting the bar for a couple drinks with friends. I am a practicing nurse (RN) for the past 30 years and I thank God that I was able to work with some of the most potent painkillers and opiates out there and I never thought about abusing the drug to cause an altered state of mind.

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Editor-in Chief:
Kirsten Nicole

Editorial Staff:
Kirsten Nicole
Stan Kenyon
Robyn Bowman
Kimberly McNabb
Lisa Gordon
Stephanie Robinson

Kirsten Nicole
Stan Kenyon
Liz Di Bernardo
Cris Lobato
Elisa Howard
Susan Cramer