7 WAYS TO LOSE YOUR NURSING LICENSEMedical Defense
Nurses are supposed to be compassionate healers. Overwhelmingly, most nurses are. Still, every year, nursing boards in all fifty states revoke scores of nursing licenses. Although most of these revocations involve something unrelated to the job, other license revocations happen because patients have been abused, endangered – or worse. The fear of having your nursing license taken away is a reality for everyone in the nursing profession, so it is imperative to know what the leading reasons are for nursing license revocations.
Of course, beyond these seven reasons, there are a variety of other reasons why a nursing license may be revoked. Amy Foster, a licensing attorney for the Arizona Board of Nursing, explains, “Patient harm or substance abuse is always something the Board takes seriously. If there is a danger of imminent harm to the public, the Board does a summary suspension to suspend the license and keep the nurse from working. Arizona has a felony bar statute that says that if you have a felony, you cannot hold a professional license until five years after absolute discharge (so after probation ends). Criminal activity is always a big one.”
You must stay in touch with your state’s nursing board. Attorney Foster says, “But honestly, if you look at the statistics, revocation occurs when you don’t respond to the Board. If you don’t keep your address updated, even minor infractions can lead to losing your license because they can’t reach you and they have no choice but to revoke. The Boards try really hard to reach you but if you don’t update your contact information, there’s not much they can do. It’s a good incentive to update your information!”
Suspension and revocation decisions are ultimately up to the nursing board in each state, so every nurse will want to be familiar with your own state’s laws and disciplinary procedures. If your nursing license is at risk in the state of Texas, you should discuss your rights and options with an experienced Dallas medical license defense attorney. Below, the top seven reasons nursing licenses are revoked:
It happens far too often. A nurse with back pain – from standing on his or her feet all day – gets a prescription for back pain relief. After the pain fades, the nurse sneaks just a little on the side – to keep the pain away. Then a little more. Soon enough, it’s an addiction. Rather than revoking the nursing license, in many cases, it will be temporarily suspended provided the nurse participates in an addiction recovery group. Those who complete a recovery program and stay clean get to keep their licenses. If a nurse refuses to take part in a program or continues to abuse drugs or alcohol during or after the program, the state board will most probably revoke that nurse’s license.
2. DIVERSION OF DRUGS
Surreptitiously taking any prescription drugs for yourself or anyone else is a crime. A nurse’s license will almost certainly be revoked, and the nurse could face criminal charges and even time in jail. Whatever the justification might be, it is not worth losing everything you have worked for. A revocation of your nursing license is nothing, however, compared to an arrest, charges, and a criminal prosecution and conviction. Diverting drugs with the intention to sell the drugs can send you to prison.
3. CONDUCT UNBECOMING A PROFESSIONAL
“Unprofessional conduct” is a general phrase that gives state nursing boards substantial authority to suspend and revoke licenses. Conduct unbecoming a professional can range from inappropriate language to sexual harassment to criminal behavior. Professionalism in nursing is vital to employers, and they generally frown on anything that might be perceived as inappropriate behavior. If no patient has been harmed, a first offense might be reprimanded or met with a temporary license suspension, but repeat offenders can quickly be out of a job and possibly even lose the nursing license.
4. FALSIFYING MEDICAL RECORDS
Whatever the justification may be, falsifying a patient’s medical records will get a nurse’s license revoked. It doesn’t matter if you were on your feet twelve hours and just too tired to do it properly. Maybe you provided a patient with a little something to help the patient through the night, and you don’t care for anyone else to know. The problem is that if a patient’s medical records are not accurate, a doctor can’t offer the right treatment. A falsified patient record will get a nurse’s license revoked, but for a patient, the possible consequences are frightening.
5. MALPRACTICE, NEGLECT, AND ABUSE
Malpractice, neglect, and abuse – sadly, these are all far more common than anyone would care to admit. Patients sometimes are the targets of intentionally-inflicted suffering, but more often they are victimized by the unintentional negligence of nurses who are overworked and overstressed in understaffed institutions. Whether their suffering is or is not intentional, patients are vulnerable people and easy targets, so nursing boards have little patience with malpractice or abuse. A minor incident of negligence might be penalized with a reprimand or a temporary license suspension – provided that no one was hurt and it’s a first offense. However, in cases of hernia repair mesh complications where a licensed nurse is performing under the supervision of a surgeon, often times it can be the surgeon’s actions and/or license that is called into question, not the nurse’s.
6. OPERATING A PORN SITE
Okay, this probably doesn’t apply to you, but it happens. In the old days it was called moral turpitude, but today it is considered unprofessional conduct. Also in the old days, there were no websites or internet, but with today’s digital technology making it all so convenient, the temptation is just too strong for some. It’s not really humorous, either. Pennsylvania’s nursing board has already revoked one license from a nurse who was running a pornographic website.
7. PROBATION VIOLATIONS
If you have been placed on probation by a state nursing board, you cannot violate the terms of the probation. Consider probation an act of leniency – a warning to those who want to remain in the nursing profession. Your license will almost certainly be revoked if you violate the terms of probation. Of course, if a nurse willfully and continuously violates the rules set by a state nursing board, that person will soon be looking for another line of work.
Of course, these are only seven of the many reasons a nurse’s license might be revoked. A criminal conviction for almost any felony – even something entirely unrelated to nursing – will probably also result in a nursing license revocation. More than 16,000 complaints are received each year by the Texas Board of Nursing, but not every complaint leads to an investigation or a disciplinary action, and scores of the complaints contain inadequate information or are out of the Board’s jurisdiction. The identity of the person filing a complaint is always kept confidential.
Wendie A. Howland a legal nurse consultant and life care planner with Massachusetts-based Howland Health Consulting, Inc., offers this advice: “Many people (especially new nurses) are worried about losing their licenses for cause. What they need to realize is that it’s actually pretty hard to lose a license. They hear things like threats from employers about ‘patient abandonment’ in the context of refusing to do overtime without realizing that unless it’s a true emergency, not an ongoing short-staffing modus operandi, staffing is not the staff nurse’s problem. I like to say, ‘P***ing off the staffing coordinator is not a license issue.’ Other such HR sorts of things could get you fired, but they don’t rise to the standard of action on your license.”
Ms. Howland suggests, “You can get your state nursing association or board of nursing newsletter for the asking; in it they always list the names, offenses, and penalties of people who have had actions taken against their licenses. I always tell people that if they aren’t stealing from the patients, stealing opioids, engaging in intentional fraudulent practice, working under the influence of mind-altering substances, deliberately falsifying documentation, or grossly exceeding scope of practice, and the like, it’s not likely the BoN is going to care.”
The Texas Board of Nursing notifies nurses of investigations and complaints, unless such a notification would compromise an investigation, and nurses are provided the opportunity to respond to allegations and to show that they are in compliance with the Texas Nursing Practice Act. If your license is at risk because of a complaint to the Texas Board of Nursing, seek the advice of an experienced Dallas medical license defense attorney who routinely represents and advises nurses facing a license suspension or revocation. If you are a nurse, it’s your career and probably also, in a sense, your life. You’ve worked hard for it, and it’s worth fighting for.