Navigating Travel Nurse Drug Testing - Trusted Nurse Staffing 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

You’re seriously considering a job as a travel nurse, but you have questions about the process. 

With so many changes to drug laws in various states, it’s hard to know what’s considered acceptable and what’s not.

  • Do travel nurses get drug tested?
  • Can meds affect the drug test?
  • How does a positive test affect your chances of getting hired?

We take a closer look at why travel nurse drug testing is necessary and how it benefits both the facility and the travel nurse.


Table of Contents



Do Travel Nurses Get Drug Tested?

Yes, travel nurses are routinely required to get a drug test before any assignment. 

Drug testing is the most common pre-employment screen and you may be required to have a drug test before your assignment and again during the first week of your assignment at a new facility.

It’s also important to know that drug tests are not just for illegal narcotics. Some medications may cause you to fail a drug test, so you should always have a valid and current prescription.

Additionally, practicing in a state with legalized marijuana is not a free pass to consume products containing THC, as this may still negatively impact your test results. 

A failed or refused drug test is board reportable and could result in trouble with your Board of Nursing.

Trusted Nurse Staffing is dedicated to ensuring our nurses are fully educated on the drug testing requirements for each assignment, no matter what state you choose to work in. 

We are experts at providing the best possible experience before, during, and after each assignment. 

If you have questions about travel nurse drug testing, contact one of our Trusted Partners. We’ll walk you through the entire process, make recommendations, and guide you to the best testing facilities in your location.


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What Types of Drug Tests Are Used for Travel Nurses?

The 5-panel urine drug screen (UDS) is required as the nationwide standard for the Federal Government’s Mandatory Guidelines for Workplace Drug Testing, but blood and hair follicle samples are occasionally (but not often) taken.

A urine drug screen takes place in a purposefully designed bathroom at a testing facility. You will be asked to leave your personal belongings (purse, contents of pockets, backpacks, etc.) behind and given a specimen cup to provide the sample.

Travel nurses are generally not required to be under direct observation, but a nurse or technician will read the temperature of the sample to ensure it’s within the expected range.

Mixups are rare, but you should always keep your eye on the sample until it is packaged and labeled. 

The UDS is intended to screen for:

  • Amphetamines (meth, speed, ecstasy)
  • THC (cannabinoids, marijuana)
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids (heroin, opium, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)


7 Reasons Why You May Be Required To Take a Travel Nurse Drug Test

There are four broad reasons for drug testing, which include:

  • Pre-employment testing
  • Reasonable suspicion testing
  • Post-accident testing; and
  • Random or periodic testing

More specifically, we’ve listed some of the reasons why a travel nurse may be subject to drug testing below.


#1: Hiring

Drug testing is a part of the hiring process the first time you’re hired on assignment at a facility, and also for subsequent assignments at new healthcare facilities or even a new position within your current facility.

When you are hired, you’ll receive a package explaining everything that is required, including what type of drug test and when. Simply make the appointment with the information provided, get tested, and you’re done!


#2: Facility Policy

Drug tests aren’t necessarily triggered by something you’ve done, but rather they are a requirement of the facility that hired you.

Some state laws require facilities to randomly select a certain number of nurses for drug testing every month. 

It’s luck of the draw, in a lot of cases, so even after you’ve been hired you might find yourself in the testing facility more than you expected — or not at all!


#3: Patient Complaint

Oftentimes, drug tests are mandated when you least expect them and are triggered by specific activities on your ward.

If any patient makes a major complaint that indicates you could be working under the influence, or a series of similar complaints from various patients comes in, you could be subjected to random drug testing.


#4: Anonymous Report

Any person — not just your patients — who suspects suspicious behavior can file a report with the facility. This could be anyone, including:

  • Coworkers
  • Managers
  • Floor supervisors
  • Patient family members
  • Custodial staff
  • Support and administrative staff
  • Etc.

Anyone present while you are working can file a report at any time, even if you are not under the influence of narcotics or alcohol. 


#5: Unsafe Incident

Even if you don’t “appear” to be under the influence, any unsafe incident could result in a drug test. 

It is the responsibility of the facility to ensure patient health, safety, and security are of utmost importance and priority.

Any behaviors, such as …

  • Making multiple mistakes on a shift
  • Acting erratically or emotionally unstable; or 
  • A major medical mistake that resulted in injury to the patient 

… may trigger a drug test.


#6: Social Media Post

Social media can be a tell-all for potential or current employers and plays a role in how you are viewed by facility managers and coworkers.

Any social media post that depicts direct or indirect drug use could easily get back to your employer and trigger a drug test — even if you think your posts are private. 

Always consider social media to be public information and post wisely when enjoying your time off.


#7: Injured on the Job

You may be subject to drug testing if you report injury or illness while on the job if the injury appears to have been caused by drug use. 

Laws around post-injury drug testing vary from state to state, however, all nurses are protected under Federal Law from drug testing that is “intended to penalize an employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness rather than for the legitimate purpose of promoting workplace safety and health.”.


travel nurses get drug tested


3 Benefits of Travel Nurse Drug Testing

While it may seem like a hassle to get drug tested before every assignment, there are advantages for both you and the facility where you’ve been hired. 

On one hand, the facility must protect both its patients and its reputation. And on the other hand, as a travel nurse, your reputation will ultimately lead to future assignments.


#1: Ensures Patient Safety

Patient safety is of the utmost importance to every healthcare facility, and unfortunately, drug and alcohol use is a significant problem among nurses and healthcare professionals.

One survey indicates that 18% of nurses show signs of substance abuse, while 6.6% of nurses suffer from a substance abuse disorder. Many nurses are hesitant to seek help for substance abuse due to the stigma and possible career consequences.

However, the impact on patients and the healthcare system is significant. Impaired nurses are less able to provide safe and adequate care, which may result in:

  • Poor work performance
  • Medication errors
  • Difficulty meeting schedules or deadlines
  • Diverting medication to themselves instead of patients
  • Poor charting
  • Delayed reaction times
  • And more


#2: Maintains a Professional Image

By administering regular drug tests, both travel nurses and healthcare facilities maintain a professional image. Drug testing demonstrates a commitment to high standards and instills trust in patients.

As a travel nurse, subjecting yourself to frequent and random testing shows both the agency and the healthcare facilities that you are trustworthy, reliable, and have nothing to hide.


#3: Upholds Compliance With State and Federal Regulations

Drug testing may be required by state and federal regulations. By conducting pre-employment and random drug testing, travel nursing employers and agencies remain in compliance with these regulations, avoiding any possible legal issues.


Avoiding a False Positive in a Travel Nurse Drug Test

False positives are rare, but they do happen. Urine testing may show the presence of illicit drugs, even if none were taken. This could be a result of over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and certain foods.

If you are contacted with positive results, you should immediately report all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you’ve taken recently. Poppy seed and hemp-related foods can also result in a false positive.

It’s important to be available to speak to the MRO when one calls. Clearing your result should be of utmost priority and you have 24 hours from the initial call to complete this process.

Using a professional drug testing company can also help prevent the possibility of a false positive, and all positive tests should be confirmed by a laboratory that is certified by the Federal Government.


nurses get drug tested


What Happens if You Fail a Travel Nursing Drug Test?

Depending on state and federal laws, you are likely to face some sort of action that may include:

  • Further investigation
  • Fines for a first-time offense
  • License suspension
  • Revoked license
  • Mandatory drug or alcohol rehab

It’s important to know that entering into a drug or alcohol rehab program can affect your licensure and have long-term effects on your career. Under most circumstances, it’s advised to seek legal help.

Many factors can affect how long traces of narcotics can be found, such as age, metabolism, hydration, and the amount of drugs taken — and some drugs can “build up” over time. 

Since it’s impossible to predict how long the presence of drugs will test positive in your urine, the best thing to do is avoid taking any drugs for weeks, even months, leading up to your test. 


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Supporting Our Nurses Every Step of the Way

Trusted Nurse Staffing works with travel nurses throughout not only the hiring process but their entire assignment. 

Our team is dedicated to providing you with the most up-to-date information and requirements for every position in every state.

Our goal is to ensure that our nurses are fully-informed and aware of potential consequences related to drug testing.

When you choose Trusted Nurse Staffing, you are choosing partnership. Our nurses are our top priority.

For more information about drug testing requirements for travel nurses, speak to one of our Trusted Partners today.


drug testing