Is challenging a board of nursing discipline an uphill battle?

A reader’s RN license was revoked “on a default” due to her being criminally charged with disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor.

The nurse petitioned the board of nursing to reinstatement her license and it agreed, placing her license on probation. Later, the criminal misdemeanor was dismissed and the charge reduced to an infraction.

The reader wants to know if she can still be placed on probation even though the charge was reduced. She is planning to petition and ask that her discipline be reduced to a reprimand instead of the two-year probation.

All the details concerning this process in this nurse’s state is not known. To begin with, she did not share what her conduct was that resulted in the disturbing the peace charge.

Whatever it was, her charge was reduced to an infraction. An infraction is a violation of an administrative regulation, an ordinance or a municipal code. It is a civil, not a criminal, offense. Common examples include drinking in public and disturbing the peace.

Be professional 24/7

Even without knowing the specifics that lead to the initial charge, several of my blogs have discussed the fact that holding a license as a nurse requires professional conduct at all times — on or off duty.

As a result, it is assumed the board acted within its authority and the nurse’s conduct was seen as unprofessional under the nurse practice act, resulting in the initial revocation of her license.

If you recall, a revocation of a license is the most serious of all disciplinary actions that can be taken by a board of nursing.

In this matter, the board ordered a revocation but later allowed the nurse to reinstate her license — albeit with a two-year probationary period. The board may have been concerned about a full reinstatement.

Perhaps the conduct resulting in the original charge was such that the board wanted to monitor the nurse during this time period to ensure she was able to practice nursing safely and/or to ensure conduct that resulted in the original charge would not reoccur.

In other words, the nurse’s duty to act professionally at all times needed a watchful eye from the board.

Always show up

The board’s revocation appears to be a “default” decision, meaning the nurse licensee did not appear before the board when her case was decided. Her non-appearance might also be a reason why the board required a two-year probationary period rather than a full reinstatement since a nurse licensee’s duty is to be responsible and accountable.

Nurse practice acts and their regulations lay the groundwork for petitioning a board of nursing for various reasons. This nurse is clearly within her rights under the act to petition the board and attempt to reduce her discipline to a reprimand.

However, to do so, she should retain a nurse attorney or attorney to represent her in this process so she has the best chance to change the discipline. The nurse attorney or attorney will need the nurse to truthfully share all of the circumstances surrounding her initial charge and conviction.

Tips to keep in mind

If you are faced with any criminal or infraction allegations, remember to:

  1. Always retain a nurse attorney or attorney to handle the criminal or infraction matter, as well as the case before the board of nursing.
  2. Act professionally at all times, not only when practicing, but also when you are in public.
  3. Know your rights under the state nurse practice act and its regulations as it pertains to your licensure status.
  4. Never ignore a notice or other communication from a board of nursing.
  5. Always be present during any proceedings before the board pertaining to your case, so your accountability and responsibility under the act is not compromised.

Take these courses to help you protect your license:

Protect Yourself
(1 contact hr)

Nurses have an obligation to keep abreast of current issues surrounding the regulation of the practice of nursing, not only in their respective states, but also across the nation, especially when their nursing practice crosses state borders. Because the practice of nursing is a right granted by a state to protect those who need nursing care, nurses have a duty to patients to practice in a safe, competent and responsible manner. This requires a nurse licensee to practice in conformity with their states statute and regulations. This course outlines information about nurse practice acts and how they affect nursing practice.

The Nurses’ Bill of Rights
(1 contact hr)

The Nurses’ Bill of Rights is a statement of professional rights rather than a legal document. It establishes an informal covenant between nurses and their employing institutions to help guide organizational policy and to focus discussions between nurses and employers on issues related to patient care and working conditions. Nurses can advocate more effectively for patients’ rights when they have critical information about their own rights. Not every nurse is familiar with the Nurses’ Bill of Rights or related rights described by various state boards of nursing and nursing associations in their position statements. This module provides an overview of them.

Everyday Ethics for Nurses
(7.3 contact hrs)

This course provides an overview of bioethics as it applies to healthcare and nursing in the U.S. It begins by describing the historical events and forces that brought the bioethics movement into being and explains the concepts, theories and principles that are its underpinnings. It shows how ethics functions within nursing, as well as on a hospitalwide, interdisciplinary ethics committee. The course also explains the elements of ethical decision making as they apply to the care of patients and on ethics committees. The course concludes with a look at the ethical challenges involved in physician-assisted suicide, organ transplantation and genetic testing.

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