Nursing Board discipline .. when to take the deal

Each year, hundreds of nurses face a possible disciplinary action by the Ohio Board of Nursing.  Sanctions can include a reprimand, probation, suspension, license limitations, and even license revocation.  In many cases, the nurse is offered a Consent Agreement, which is similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case, in which the nurse can agree to the terms of discipline.  I am often asked by my clients, “Should I accept the Consent Agreement or should I reject the offer and proceed to a Hearing?”

It is important to first note that whether the nurse enters into a Consent Agreement or proceeds to a Hearing, the Board will issue a final Order against the nurse and that the Order and the sanction imposed against the nurse is a public record which will be on the Board’s website, reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank and www.nursys.com, and published in the Nursing Board’s quarterly magazine, Momentum.

There are pros and cons to accepting a negotiated Consent Agreement.  By entering into a Consent Agreement, the nurse often has the ability to negotiate what factual information concerning the disciplinary action will be included in the Consent Agreement.  Because a disciplinary action is open and available to the public, being able to negotiate the wording of the Consent Agreement is important.  Additionally, the nurse can often negotiate WHEN the sanction will take place or when they will start the conditions for reinstatement of their license (if their license is suspended).  Also, the nurse avoids the stress, expense, and uncertainty of a Hearing.  If a nurse proceeds to a Hearing, nurse has no ability to negotiate the factual summary that is included in the Order or negotiate the sanction to be imposed. The Board has the sole discretion to issue any sanction as noted above.

However, there can be drawbacks to accepting a Consent Agreement. Consent Agreements are negotiated by only one Board member.  In negotiating a Consent Agreement, the nurse waives their right to a Hearing and often regrets not having their “day in court” to tell their “side of the story.”

In determining whether to negotiate a Consent Agreement or proceed to a Hearing, the nurse should consider all options and potential outcomes. These options and potential outcomes, as well as the nurse’s final decision, should be carefully considered, taking into account how the Board has handled similar cases in the past.  Whether through a Consent Agreement or a Hearing, the sanction that is imposed in each case depends on the individual facts and circumstances of the matter.

As always, if you have any questions related to this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis, Smiles in Collis, LLC at 614-386-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com

Ohio Nurse Applicants – The NCLEX Program Is Going Paperless in 2014

The Ohio Board of Nursing recently announced that starting January 2014, the NCLEX program will transition to a paperless program. The Nursing Board’s website located at http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/index.htm provides further information regarding the transition to a paperless program. Highlights from the Nursing Board’s website announcement include:

NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin: The NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin will no longer be distributed in a hard copy version. Boards of nursing, candidates and education programs will access the Candidate Bulletin via the NCSBN website.

Eights Steps of the NCLEX: This Candidate Bulletin insert will no longer be distributed in a hard copy version. This abbreviated reference guide to NCLEX processes will be enhanced to include additional information and will also be available on the NCSBN website. The name of this document will be changed to the NCLEX Information flyer.

Candidate Bulletin At-A-Glance: Due to the enhancements of the Eight Steps of the NCLEX, as well as the continued accessibility of the Candidate Bulletin, the At-A-Glance piece will no longer be published as either an electronic or hard copy version.

Money Order, Certified Check and Cashier Check Payments: Money order, certified check and cashier check payments will no longer be accepted. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, all candidates and third parties will be required to register and pay for exam registrations through the Pearson VUE website or over the phone (866.496.2539) with a credit card, debit card or prepaid card.

Authorization to Test (ATT) Letter: Once the board of nursing makes a candidate eligible, that candidate will receive their ATT by email. The ATT continues to serve as the candidate’s notice that they may schedule their NCLEX at a Pearson Professional Center. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the paper copy of the ATT letter will no longer be necessary for test admittance. To gain access to the NCLEX, candidates must present one form of acceptable identification that matches the name exactly as the candidate provided when registering. If the candidate’s ID does not match the name exactly as they registered with, the candidate will not be admitted to test and will have to reregister and pay another examination fee.

“You’ve Completed the NCLEX Examination but Still Have Questions” Brochure: This brochure is currently given to candidate’s at the test center on the day of their exam. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, this information will be sent to a candidates email address shortly after they have completed their exam and will also be available on the NCSBN website.

For additional information see http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/index.htm

As always, if you have any questions about the Ohio Board of Nursing or this post, please feel free to call one of the attorneys at Collis, Smiles and Collis at 614-486-3909 or check out our website at http://www.collislaw.com.

If you received a Notice for Opportunity for Hearing .. request a hearing

On Friday, July 27, the Ohio Board of Nursing held its bi-monthly meeting. At that meeting, the Board voted to take disciplinary action against dozens of nurses in the state of Ohio. Nurses who face discipline by the Board will be mailed a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, Notice of Summary Suspension or Notice of Automatic Suspension of their nursing license by certified mail.  This is not a final decision by the Board.  These Notices outline the charges that the Board has alleged against you.

If you receive notification from the post office that you have a certified letter from the Nursing Board, immediately go to the post office and collect the letter as there are important time sensitive deadlines which, if not met, can have a permanent effect on your license.

If you want the Board to hear “your side of the story” you must request a hearing in writing to request a hearing by the deadline in the Notice. This can be done by following the instructions in the Notice. A request for a hearing is a simple letter sent to the Board stating that you would like a hearing. You do not need to list your defenses or reasons why you want a hearing. You simply need to state in the letter that you would like a hearing.

You only have thirty (30) days from the date the Notice was MAILED to you to request a hearing.  The 30 day time frame starts on the date that the letter was mailed to you and not on the date that you received the letter. Failure to request a hearing will prevent you from providing any evidence on your behalf to the Board.

I am often asked “why should I even request a hearing … the Board has already made a determination.” This is not correct.  These Notices only list allegations raised against you.  While the Board has conducted an investigation prior to issuing the Notice, in most cases they have only considered one side of the evidence. By requesting a hearing you will be able to present your side of the story.

Even in cases where the nurse has violated the Ohio Nurse Practice Act, by presenting your side of the story and explaining what challenges you faced or what you were thinking when the error occurred, you increase the chances of getting a lighter sanction from the Board than if you simply do not even request a hearing.

You worked hard for your nursing license. There are always two sides to any story. If you receive a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, a Notice of Summary Suspension, or a Notice of Immediate Suspension, request a hearing within the deadline and make sure the Board hears your side of the story before they make a final determination.

You should also consider hiring experienced legal counsel to defend you before the Nursing Board. When considering how to hire an attorney, check out my previous post on “How to Hire an Attorney”.  Your livelihood depends on you finding experienced legal counsel that you trust to help in your defense.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to contact me at (614) 486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

Nursing Board Consent Agreements Are Binding Contracts and Generally Can Not Be Changed

A Consent Agreement is a written contract between a nurse and the Ohio Board of Nursing. A Consent Agreement is a voluntary agreement that outlines the discipline that will be imposed against a nurse. A Consent Agreement is similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case. The nurse agrees to certain disciplinary conditions, in lieu of proceeding to an administrative hearing before the Board. By entering into the Consent Agreement, the nurse generally admits to certain misconduct and agrees to comply with certain disciplinary terms.

It is important to keep in mind that once you enter into a Consent Agreement, you are required to complete all terms. Depending on the specific language of the Consent Agreement, you can, in certain circumstances, request modifications to a Consent Agreement after a period of time. However, if the Consent Agreement does not specifically provide that the Consent Agreement may be modified, generally you cannot “get out” of or change the terms of the Consent Agreement.

In most cases, for the probationary period to toll, the nurse needs to work in a position where a nursing license is required. Consent Agreements typically always provide that any time that the nurse is not employed in a nursing position will not reduce the probation or monitoring period.

Generally, once you enter into the Consent Agreement, the only way to “get out” of the Agreement is to comply with its terms. Often nurses have “buyer’s remorse” when they enter into a Consent Agreement and after several months, they no longer want to comply with the terms of the Consent Agreement. However, in most cases, unless the nurse has complied with all the terms of the Consent Agreement the probationary period will not be lifted or modified.

Also, at the end of the probation period, the Consent Agreement does not automatically end. The nurse needs to affirmatively request to be released from all probationary terms of the Consent Agreement.

Consent Agreements are contracts entered into between the nurse and the Board of Nursing. As you may be subject to compliance terms for many months, years, or even indefinitely, it is imperative that you understand the terms of the Consent Agreement BEFORE you sign it.

You worked hard for your professional license. As I have said in previous posts, prior to entering into any agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing, it is important that you seek experienced legal counsel to assist and represent you.

As always, if you have any questions about this post, or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to contact at me (614) 486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

Yes, you must disclose your DUI on your nursing license renewal form

This spring, all LPNs will renew their licenses in Ohio. To renew your license, you should have been sent information by mail that will allow you to renew your license on-line. If you have not received renewal information, you can contact the Nursing Board at renewal@nursing.ohio.gov and you will be mailed a paper renewal form.  All renewals must be submitted by the deadline (June 30) to avoid a late fee. For renewal instructions go to: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/PDFS/Licensure/2012_LPN_Renewal_Instructions.pdf

On the renewal form, you will be asked a series of questions. One question that seems to concern many nurses that I am routinely asked about is the following question:

Yes or no. Do you have a  “misdemeanor in Ohio, another state, commonwealth, territory, province or country. This does not include traffic violations unless they are DUI/OVI. (Ohio Board of Nursing 2012 Renewal application, emphasis add)

If you have a DUI, even if it was reduced to a reckless operation of a vehicle, you must check YES. Even if your case has been sealed or expunged or is in another state,  … you need to check YES. A DUI or reckless operation charge is a misdemeanor and is not a simple traffic violation. Traffic violations that do not typically have to be disclosed are things like “rolling a stop sign” or “going 45 in a 35 mph zone”. However, any DUI/OVI related traffic violation should be disclosed to the Nursing Board at the time of renewal.

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor DUI or alcohol related reckless operation of a vehicle, the Board has the authority to take a disciplinary action, including suspending your nursing license, placing your license on probation,  or placing a restriction on your license.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to contact me at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

Hello Ohio Nurses!

Hi, in my practice as an attorney I exclusively represent professionals before their state licensing boards in Ohio.  As a former Ohio Assistant Attorney General, I am familiar with the disciplinary process of Boards such as the State Medical Board of Ohio, Ohio Board of Nursing, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Ohio Chiropractic Board and many, many more licensing agencies.

I regularly help applicants apply for a professional license in Ohio or wade through the disciplinary process. I have started this blog to answer many of the common questions that I receive in my practice on a weekly basis from nurses throughout Ohio. Such as, “should I apply for a license in Ohio if I have a criminal conviction on my record?” “what will happen with my professional license if I get a DUI?” “what should I do if contacted by a board or criminal investigator?”. I hope over  the next few months to answer many of your questions.