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The Realities of Nursing Board Discipline

Some of you may have experienced sinking feelings of despair when you receive a "Letter of Complaint/Investigation" from the Nevada State Board of Nursing. The range of emotions I've witnessed from nurses varies from righteous indignation to total despair. Some want to fight while others want to give up the practice of nursing altogether. Some want to be vindicated, while others just want to be able to keep their license. These reactions are based upon both personality and gravity of the allegations, what you did or did not do, and how you process stress.

The purpose of this article is to explain the wide range of options that are available to the NSBN in the great State of Nevada with respect to how you might be disciplined--or exonerated. Because every case is different, I cannot predict in an article how your case will turn out. However, if you call me for a free consultation (702-893-4777), I can usually narrow down the likely outcomes and give you a pretty good idea of what might happen, and how I can help you avoid a worst-case scenario, such as the suspension or loss of your license.

Administrative Boards who grant or deny licensure wield a great deal of authority over the licensees, and this is equally true with the Nevada State Board of Nursing and those who work in the nursing profession (e.g., APRN, RN, LPN, CNA). After you self-report or are reported to the Board (usually by an employer, co-worker or patient), if on the surface there appears to be the possibility of a violation of the nursing practices and standards, you will receive a letter, which will state (in the top left corner) "NOTICE OF COMPLAINT/INVESTIGATION."

In the past, these letters have come to nurses before any telephonic contact with the Board. However, I've had a few cases recently where an investigator calls the nurse before they get a letter. If you want my advice, DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE but an attorney about your case first. Simply tell that investigator you would to speak to your attorney first, and give me a call IMMEDIATELY. If you don't, anything incriminating you tell them or they think you told them can and will be used against you, which is why attorneys always advise clients not to talk to the Board investigators. Let us do the talking for you--you'll have a chance to speak with the Board and tell your story at a later date.

What can the NSBN "do" to a nurse who is being investigated? A list is set forth in Nevada Administrative Code:

NAC 632.926  Actions by Board; surrender of license. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, the Board will do one of the following:

1.  Dismiss or close the complaint.

2.  Reprimand the licensee or holder of a certificate.

3.  Deny licensure or certification.

4.  Deny renewal or reissuance of a license or certificate.

5.  Impose and collect an administrative fine.

6.  Accept the voluntary surrender of the license or certificate in lieu of imposing any other disciplinary action set forth in this section.

7.  Suspend the license or certificate and order its surrender.

8.  Revoke the license or certificate and order its surrender.

9.  Enter an order of suspension or revocation but stay the order for good cause subject to probation of a designated period and issue a restricted license.

10.  Take any other action deemed appropriate by the Board.

I'll make a few observations. First, 632.9269(1) is always the most desirable option, right? Just dismiss the complaint! This, of course hinges upon several factors. The truth is, some cases are eventually dismissed without discipline, but the reasons vary widely. Second, many clients would like to just pay an administrative fine, but this is rarely offered, so don't get your hopes up. Third, what about suspension or revocation of your license? This is what we work hard to avoid, and as a result, it rarely happens, unless, that is, you have already been disciplined are on probation and another alleged violation is raised during that probationary period; in that case, they can and often will suspend your license pending further investigation and/or a hearing.

Finally, what about reprimands and probation? Many cases fall into these two categories. Unfortunately--and you need to hear this loud and clear, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PRIVATE REPRIMAND. Nurses who have erred would like any reprimand to be private, but federal law forbids it. If you are reprimanded, it will be public, it will go on, and it will be there forever, unless the laws change. There's only exception to this rule that I know of: if you self-report a substance abuse problem before you are reported by someone else; in this case, you could go into a diversion program, get clean while your license is suspended, and complete the program, and come out with an unblemished public record. That's the only exception of which I know to the rule that all disciplinary matters must be public.

Call my anytime for a free consultation. These consultations usually last between 30 and 45 minutes. Did I say free?

When we are on the phone, have your letter from the Board ready, or if you are anticipating a letter from the Board, or anything else, just give me a call, explain the facts and I'll help you as best as I can. This consultation is completely confidential.

I truly love representing nurses!

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