The Ohio Board of Nursing Disciplinary Process

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A nurse alleged to have violated the Ohio Board of Nursing’s (“Nursing Board”) laws or rules is subject to discipline by the Nursing Board. Actions for which a nurse can be disciplined can be found here. This article is a general guideline to the Nursing Board’s disciplinary process.

Stage One – Complaint

Any member of the public is permitted to file a Complaint with the Nursing Board. Additionally, under Ohio Revised Code §4723.34(A), an employer of nurses who knows or has reason to believe that a current or former nurse employee engaged in conduct that would be grounds for disciplinary action by the Nursing Board must report to the Nursing Board the name of such current or former employee. The Nursing Board’s Complaint form can be found here. Generally, the Complaint includes the identification of the Complainant, the nurse at issue, and the allegations of the conduct at issue.

Stage Two – Board Investigation

Following the Nursing Board’s receipt of a Complaint, the Complaint is assigned to one of the Nursing Board’s Investigators (also called a Compliance Agent). Typically, the Investigator will speak with and/or obtain documents regarding the allegations in the Complaint from the person who filed the Complaint. In many instances, the Investigator will also contact the nurse at issue either by phone or email and request to speak with the nurse about the allegations in the Complaint or request that the nurse provide a written explanation of the allegations in the Complaint. Generally, a nurse’s participation in the Board’s investigation is voluntary. It is recommended to obtain legal counsel before speaking with or responding in writing to an Investigator, however, after consulting with legal counsel, there are circumstances when it is recommended to cooperate with the Investigator to the extent that it is in the best interest of the nurse to do so.

Stage Three – Notice

Following the investigation, the Nursing Board’s Supervising Member reviews the matter and decides whether to not proceed with disciplinary action against the nurse. A decision not to proceed with disciplinary action can be made because there is not sufficient evidence to prove that a violation of Nursing Board law or rule has occurred or, although there is evidence to prove that a violation of a Nursing Board law or rule occurred, the Nursing Board nevertheless determines that such violation is a “minor violation”. The Nursing Board’s policy concerning minor violations can be found here. If the Supervising Member decides to proceed with disciplinary action, a written Notice of Opportunity for Hearing (or Notice of Suspension) is issued to the nurse in which the nurse is given the opportunity to request and have an Administrative Hearing in connection with the allegations in the Notice.  The time frame (typically 30 days) and manner (typically in writing or email) in which the nurse may request a Hearing is set forth in the Notice.  If the nurse does not request a Hearing either timely or in the manner set forth in the Notice, the nurse will be deemed to have waived their rights to a Hearing and the Nursing Board has authority to impose discipline it deems appropriate without further input from the nurse.

Stage Four – Consent Agreement

In certain cases, the Nursing Board will offer a Consent Agreement to the nurse instead of having the Hearing.  A Consent Agreement is a written agreement between the Nursing Board and the nurse specifying certain admissions by the nurse and detailing the discipline to be imposed upon the nurse.  Consent Agreements have a broad range of discipline including reprimand, probation, and/or suspension, and have disciplinary requirements including but not limited to fines, CEUs, background checks, employer reports, drug screens, dependency and/or psychological evaluations, treatment provider and medication reports, and temporary or permanent practice and/or narcotic restrictions.  It is recommended to obtain legal counsel before signing a Consent Agreement so that the nurse understands their rights, the terms and conditions of the Consent Agreement, and (although no two cases are identical) whether or not the discipline in the Consent Agreement is reasonably similar in scope to similarly situated cases.  At the Consent Agreement stage, there may also be some opportunity negotiate the terms and conditions of the Consent Agreement.

Stage Five – Hearing

If the Nursing Board does not offer a Consent Agreement or if the nurse does not accept a Consent Agreement offered by the Nursing Board, the matter will proceed to the Hearing. At the Hearing, the Nursing Board is represented by an Ohio Assistant Attorney General who presents the Nursing Board’s evidence concerning the allegations in the Notice to a Hearing Examiner. The nurse may either be represented by legal counsel or by themself and may present evidence refuting the allegations in the Notice, as well as evidence of the nurses good nursing practice and character either by their own testimony and/or through character witnesses and other documentary evidence. The Hearing Examiner receives all evidence and prepares for the Nursing Board a written Report and Recommendation which outlines all the evidence received at the Hearing and recommends a discipline.

Stage Six – Board Meeting

The Report and Recommendation is considered by the full Nursing Board at a regularly scheduled Board Meeting. The Nursing Board meets every other month. Typically, the nurse (and counsel, if represented) will present a statement to the Nursing Board in their support. The Nursing Board has the authority to adopt the recommended discipline or it can reject the recommended discipline and order such discipline as it deems appropriate under the circumstances. Although a nurse has the right to appeal the Nursing Board’s decision to the Court of Common Pleas, the Nursing Board’s decision can be overturned by the Court only where the Court determines that the Nursing Board’s decision was not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is not in accordance with law (See Ohio Revised Code §119.12(D)).

Conclusion – Know Your Rights

At each stage of the Nursing Board’s disciplinary process, a nurse has legal rights.  It is recommended to obtain legal counsel in Nursing Board disciplinary matters because failure to understand and/or exercise a nurse’s legal rights can result in unintended consequences some of which cannot be reversed. Contact Todd Collis (614) 628-6962 Todd.Collis@Dinsmore.com or Beth Collis (614) 628-6945 Beth.Collis@Dinsmore.com if you have any questions.

The information in this article is general in nature and is not, nor intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Admissions to Board Investigator Can Be Used Against Physician in Criminal Trial

On December 15, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that a physician’s admissions made to an Ohio Medical Board investigator can be used against the physician in his criminal trial.

In 2017, three patients accused Dr. James Gideon of inappropriate touching during office visits.  Gideon told Bluffton police he did not inappropriately touch any patients. Subsequently, however, an Ohio Medical Board investigator made an unannounced visit to Gideon’s office. Gideon, who was aware of the Ohio Medical Board legal requirement to cooperate with and provide truthful answers to the investigator, admitted to “touching certain areas on the patients and succumbing to temptation”. The investigator provided these admission to Bluffton police.

Gideon was charged with three misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition. At trial, he argued that the statements he made to the investigator should be suppressed based on the Fifth Amendment protection from being forced to incriminate himself.

The trial court did not suppress Gideon’s incriminating statements because it found that Gideon voluntarily made the statements to the investigator. Gideon was found guilty in all three cases and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

On appeal, the appeals court ruled that the trial court should have suppressed the incriminating statements because his statements were not voluntary.

Upon review, the Ohio Supreme Court reviewed that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution includes the right to remain silent where a person’s replies might be used against the person in future criminal proceedings.

The Ohio Supreme Court held that, in order to determine that Gideon’s statements were coerced in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, Gideon had to demonstrate that (i) he subjectively believed that failure to cooperate with the investigator would lead to the loss of his license, and (ii) his belief that he was being threatened was objectionably reasonable by providing some evidence of pressure beyond merely directing him to cooperate in the investigation. The Ohio Supreme Court found that Gideon’s belief that he was being threatened was not objectively reasonable under the facts and circumstances of the investigation. Health care and other professional licensees in Ohio must be aware that information provided to an investigator – whether that is an investigator employed by the Medical Board, Nursing Board, Pharmacy Board, or any other board or agency – can be used against the licensee in a disciplinary action and in a criminal proceeding.  Legal counsel is recommended for any licensee in connection with any Board investigation or disciplinary action.

If you have any questions about this article or the State Medical Board of Ohio, please feel free to contact attorney Beth Collis at (614) 628-6945, or attorney Todd Collis at (614) 628-6962.