I am often asked by nurses, if a disciplinary action taken by the Nursing Board against their license will be available to the public. The answer is Yes. Under the Ohio Public Records law, R.C. 149.43, any official action taken by a governmental agency is a public record. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43
What does this mean? Prior to the internet, to obtain a public record from a governmental agency a written request for the document was required. You can still do that today. Now, however, all Nursing Board disciplinary actions are posted on the Nursing Board’s website and are also listed in the back of the quarterly magazine Momentum, that is issued by the Nursing Board and mailed or emailed to every nurse in the state. http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/Publications.htm
To see what is listed about you or another nurse on the Board’s website, interested persons can go to the link on the Nursing Board’s website to obtain information about a particular licensee, enter their name and they will be presented with a summary list of any discipline against that nurse. A person can click on the “view documents” box (which is in bright yellow) and download the entire disciplinary record (copies of Citation letters, Consent Agreements, Adjudication Orders or any Court appeals documents). To find information go to: https://license.ohio.gov/lookup/default.asp?division=86
Now, certainly any information about a medical diagnosis or medical condition that might have formed the basis of a disciplinary action is redacted and not included in the public record? Sorry, that is not true. The documents are not redacted. All the information, including any medical diagnosis, criminal conviction, boundary violation, the factual and legal basis for the action and the disciplinary action taken against the licensee is all included in the public record on the Nursing Board’s website.
As a follow-up question, I am often asked whether the disciplinary action is taken off the website and out of the public record once the licensee completes any suspension or probation period? Unfortunately, no. Once a disciplinary action is taken, it is on the professionals’ “permanent record” and will not be sealed, removed or redacted.
The argument given for including all disciplinary actions of the Nursing Board in the public record is that consumers should be able to know if their medical professional has been the subject of discipline by the Nursing Board.
However, only proposed disciplinary actions and final actions (be it a Consent Agreement or Adjudication Order) are made public. Complaints submitted to the Nursing Board and any Board investigations are confidential. Under the Nurse Practice Act, R.C. 4723.28 (I)(1) investigations of the Nursing Board are confidential and are not open for public disclosure. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4723.28 However, this restriction also pertains to the licensee and their legal counsel. When a complaint is filed with the Nursing Board, the licensee may be notified of the general nature of the complaint, but they will not be provided with a copy of the complaint or even given the name of the person who filed the complaint. This rule however does not prevent the Nursing Board from sharing any part of their investigation with other governmental agencies, such as a police department or another Board.
As always, if you have any questions about this post or would like me to address a particular question, feel free to email me at Beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.