Nurses are the backbone of our country's medical services. Whether you are a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse practitioner, your services are essential to the healthcare industry and to your patients.
A nursing license is an essential requirement for nurses who want to practice in Colorado. A nurse's license is their most valuable asset and one that must be protected. In Colorado, state laws and regulations increase transparency between nurses and the general public, which means every infraction or disciplinary measure will be available for anyone to see. For that reason, it is more important than ever to defend yourself against disciplinary action.
If you are being investigated by the state's Board of Nursing, don't wait to get help. Whether you are located in Boulder, Denver, or anywhere else across the Centennial State, the team of nursing license defense attorneys at the Lento Law Firm is available to help you through every step of the disciplinary process. We will work with the Board of Nursing to negotiate a resolution to your case and can help you prepare your best possible defense.
Colorado Requirements For Nursing Licenses
All nurses, even those who have been licensed for years, need to be aware of their state's licensing standards and regulations. Understanding these regulations and your rights as a licensed nurse can help prevent you from accidentally violating any requirements and can help you defend yourself from allegations of misconduct.
In Colorado, nurses are required to obtain a degree, pass the NCLEX exam, and submit an application to obtain a license. As part of the application, they must provide extensive personal information and submit their fingerprints for a background check from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Nursing licenses in Colorado expire every two years on September 30. There are no continuing education requirements to renew a license, but nurses must submit a renewal application and pay a fee.
Nursing Licenses and the Nursing Licensure Compact
Colorado is a member of the Interstate Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). At least 40 states have joined the NLC, with more being added every year. NLC states allow nurses who are licensed in one member state to practice in any other member state without having to apply for that state's license. This is especially helpful for traveling nurses who may be working in states around the country, depending on the need.
A nurse that wants to practice in an NLC state different from their home state will have to show that they are a legal resident of a member state, that they have met the competency and licensure standards in their home state, and that they have an active nursing license in good standing their home state. Because Colorado is a member of the NLC, this means that nurses with disciplinary problems may find it difficult to transfer their license and find work in most of the country.
States that are members of the NLC are required to participate in national databases that centralize nursing disciplinary records. Member states must use disciplinary tracking systems like the Coordinated Licensure Information System, National Practitioner Database, or Nurses License Verification (Nursys) database. These repositories allow the Board of Nursing, employers, and patients to quickly access nurse disciplinary records from any state where they have worked.
While nurses may work in other states under the NLC, those states do not have the authority to discipline traveling nurses. Instead, each nurse's home state has jurisdiction to impose discipline if the nurse gets into trouble while working in an NLC state.
Nurses Employed in Colorado
Nurses in the state of Colorado may be employed in a variety of areas. In addition to working at hospitals, nurses may be employed in emergency rooms, physician's offices, schools, birthing centers, hospices or nursing care facilities, or in telework. There are over a hundred hospitals in Colorado that employ the majority of the state's nurses, including:
- University of Colorado Hospital
- Denver Health Medical Center
- Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo
- Rose Medical Center
- Children's Hospital Colorado
- Memorial Hospital Central
- North Colorado Medical Center
- Saint Joseph Hospital
- Porter Adventist Hospital
- Swedish Medical Center
- Penrose Hospital Park
- Parkview Medical Center
- Medical Center of Aurora
- Lutheran Medical Center
- Saint Mary's Medical Center
No matter if you are working as a Registered Nurse, Critical Care Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Emergency Room Nurse, Certified Nurse Anesthetist, or any other type of nurse, your license remains indispensable to your career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team of nationwide nursing license defense professionals can help you fight against disciplinary actions regardless of where you work or are located.
What Puts Nursing Licenses At Risk
There are several reasons why a nurse could be subject to discipline. Nurses may be subject to discipline both for their actions in treating patients and for their activities outside of work. Some of the most common reasons that nurses are subject to discipline by the Board of Nursing include:
- Drug or alcohol use, especially while on the job
- Failing to follow standard nursing practices
- Acting in a manner inconsistent with the health and safety of patients in their care
- Sexual misconduct or abuse
- Physical violence or abuse toward patients
- Fraud or financial abuse of patients
- Conviction of a felony or some misdemeanors
- Scope of practice violations
- Accepting gifts or money from patients
- Documentation errors or omissions
- Medication errors
- Failure to pay child support
- Patient abuse or neglect
- Ethical violations
- HIPAA violations/breach of patient confidentiality
- Charting errors
- Inappropriate social media posts
- Not maintaining required malpractice or liability insurance
- Falsifying documents or patient records
- Attempting to obtain a nursing license through fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
- Knowingly allowing someone else to violate nursing practices or regulations
- Violating orders or restrictions imposed by the Board of Nursing
- Failing to notify the Board of Nursing of mental or physical conditions that may affect their ability to practice
The severity of discipline will depend on what the nurse is accused of doing, as well as their previous disciplinary history. Minor infractions that may not have warranted much action may become bigger problems if a nurse already has a substantial disciplinary history.
What Is The Disciplinary Process for Colorado Nurses?
The disciplinary process for nurses in Colorado normally starts with a complaint. After the Board of Nursing receives a complaint, they will review it and begin investigating the matter. If the Board of Nursing believes that discipline is necessary, they may decide to initiate a settlement conference with the nurse, assign the nurse to an alternative-to-discipline program, or begin formal disciplinary proceedings.
After the investigation and any proceedings, the Board of Nursing will decide what type of action to take against the nurse. This could include anything from a letter of admonishment to revoking a nurse's license. Once the Board has taken action against the nurse, the disciplinary action will be reported to the Nursys database and the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Each of the parts of the disciplinary process is important and can dramatically impact the outcome of the investigation. Responding in the right way to the Board of Nursing's inquiries and investigations can mean the difference between protecting your career as a nurse and facing serious discipline. At the Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team has helped nurses across Colorado and the country with defending their licenses from disciplinary action every step of the way.
Complaints Against Nurses In Colorado
Multiple different people may file a complaint against a nurse. A complaint could come from a patient, a coworker, an employer, law enforcement, or someone who happened to observe the nurse doing something wrong.
A person can file a complaint against a nurse either online at the website for Colorado's Division of Professions and Occupations. As part of that complaint, the person must choose the nature of their complaint and describe their complaint in writing. While the state will accept anonymous complaints, people are encouraged to leave their identifying information.
Not all complaints turn into something more. Before a complaint is investigated thoroughly, it is reviewed to make sure that it is within the jurisdiction of the Board of Nursing. For example, the Board of Nursing does not have jurisdiction over complaints about fees and costs. These complaints are often dismissed outright.
When a complaint is within the Board of Nursing's jurisdiction, and it seems probable that there is an actual violation, the complaint may be referred to Colorado's Office of Investigations. At this point, the investigation into the nurse's alleged conduct will begin in earnest. While this can be a frightening experience, the team at the Lento Law Firm can walk you through it and let you know what to expect.
Investigations Into Colorado Nurses
When a complaint against a nurse may have merit, it is usually assigned to an investigator in Colorado's Office of Investigations. The investigator will look into the complaint, which means that they make speak with witnesses, talk to the nurse's employer or coworkers, review documentation and patient records, watch surveillance videos, or consult with medical professionals. Depending on how complex the investigation is, the investigator may need to subpoena documents or hire an expert consultant.
The investigation process may take several months. While the Office of Investigations aims to complete its inquiry within 180 days, there is no hard deadline that it must meet. Instead, the investigator will continue reviewing information until they are satisfied that their investigation is complete. It is likely that both the nurse and the person who filed the complaint will be interviewed by the investigator, possibly more than once. The investigation and its results are kept confidential and will not be available for the public to review.
After the investigator has completed their review of all of the information, they will write a report that will be presented to the Board of Nursing for their review. While investigators are supposed to be neutral third parties who do not work for the Board of Nursing or represent them in any way, the investigator's report still carries an extraordinary amount of weight with the Board of Nursing.
The report from the Office of Investigations will strongly influence the Board of Nursing's disciplinary decisions. For that reason, working with an experienced nursing license defense professional like those at the Lento Law Firm is vital to protecting yourself. Our team can help you respond to the investigator's requests in a way that guards your privacy and prevents oversharing unnecessary information that may harm you.
Expedited Settlements for Nurses in Colorado
After the Board of Nursing receives the report from the investigator, they will review it and decide how to proceed. If the Board of Nursing decides that disciplinary action is necessary, they have the option to refer the complaint to the state's Expedited Settlement Process (ESP).
ESP allows the Board of Nursing to propose a settlement agreement to the nurse. If the nurse accepts the proposed sanctions, the nurse will have to sign a contract agreeing to its terms. Once that document is signed, the matter is closed and resolved. ESP allows nurses to quickly resolve a matter while avoiding the time and costs of extended litigation.
ESP is not required, and nurses do not have to accept any proposed settlement. Nurses may also negotiate a different resolution to their problem with the Board of Nursing; however, this can be a complicated endeavor. The knowledgeable professionals at the Lento Law Firm can work with the Board of Nursing and ESP to create a plan that works best for you.
Colorado Nurse Disciplinary Hearings
If a nurse facing discipline cannot work out a settlement agreement with the Board of Nursing, then they will go to a hearing that will decide their fate. The Board of Nursing does not hold its own hearings in Colorado; instead, hearings are held in an Administrative Law Court in front of an Administrative Law Judge. The state's Office of the Attorney General represents the Board of Nursing at these hearings, while the nurse facing disciplinary action must provide their own attorney if they want to have representation in court.
While an administrative hearing is not the same as a criminal court case or a civil trial, disciplinary hearings are still conducted in a similar manner. The attorney for the Board of Nursing may ask questions, present witnesses, and submit evidence as to why a nurse should be disciplined. The nurse and their attorney will also have the opportunity to do the same.
Having an attorney to represent your interests at this hearing is extremely important. An attorney can argue your side of the story and present evidence that supports you. They can also negotiate an agreement with the Board of Nursing, even at the hearing stage. The Lento Law Firm Team has attended hundreds of disciplinary hearings and will be there to help you through the process.
Disciplinary Options For Colorado Nurses
There is a range of options that the Board of Nursing has available to discipline nurses licensed in the state. Depending on the severity of the alleged offense, the Board may choose one or multiple options.
For less serious offenses, the Board of Nursing may choose to implement a fine or other monetary penalty. They may also issue a letter of reprimand that will be on a nurse's public record.
Nurses who have issues with drug or alcohol abuse may be referred to an alternative-to-discipline plan that involves treatment and monitoring. These programs may require nurses to submit to random drug testing as a condition of continuing to practice. The Board of Nursing may also require nurses to take additional education courses or remedial training or may require a nurse to be supervised while they practice.
The Board of Nursing also has the ability to limit or restrict a nurse's ability to practice in the state. They can limit a nurse to only performing certain roles or duties, restrict the hours that a nurse may work, or prohibit the nurse from working in certain settings or with certain types of patients.
The most serious forms of discipline that the Board of Nursing may impose are license suspensions and revocations. A nurse could be unable to practice for a certain amount of time or could be required to complete certain requirements in order to resume practicing. They may also decide to revoke a nurse's license entirely, leaving that person unable to practice nursing in Colorado in the future.
The discipline imposed by the Board of Nursing can have a serious effect on your ability to practice in your career in the future. Even minor fines or letters of reprimand can stay on your public record for years and affect your chances of getting or keeping a job. The Lento Law Firm Team understands that any type of discipline negatively affects your life and will work to negotiate a resolution to your matter that works for you.
How A Nursing License Defense Team Can Help You
Facing discipline from the Board of Nursing can be intimidating and overwhelming. You may not know what you should say, who you can trust, and what information may hurt you with the Board. At the Lento Law Firm, our team of nationwide nursing license defense attorneys understands how you are feeling. We make it our mission to make you feel secure and protected while we negotiate your case.
An attorney can help you defend yourself from disciplinary action in a number of ways. First, the attorney can review the allegations against you and look for any possible defenses. An attorney may be able to find evidence to support your claims and can help you organize your case. Your lawyer may interview witnesses, review documentation, and consult with medical professionals about possible issues in your case.
An attorney can also communicate on your behalf with investigators and attorneys for the Board of Nursing. They can make sure that you do not inadvertently say something that may harm your case or cause greater issues. They can also negotiate on your behalf with the Board of Nursing and try to reach a settlement agreement to avoid more severe disciplinary consequences.
If you are attending a hearing about your disciplinary matter, an attorney's assistance is invaluable. Administrative hearings have many complicated rules and regulations that all parties must follow. There are strict procedures for admitting evidence and examining witnesses that must be followed, which are very difficult to learn without years of legal training. An attorney will know how to follow these rules and present your best case. Finally, if there is an unsatisfactory outcome, an attorney can advise you on your rights to an appeal and your chances of success.
The Lento Law Firm Helps Colorado Nurses
Nursing is a stressful and intense profession. Nurses are required to make life-or-death decisions every day, often after a long shift or little sleep. Mistakes sometimes happen, but that doesn't mean that you should not be able to work in the career you love.
Facing disciplinary proceedings is stressful enough without trying to manage everything on your own. The team of nursing license defense professionals at the Lento Law Firm is here for you to help you manage the disciplinary process and protect your license. Don't go it alone! To learn more about how we can help, contact us today by calling 888.535.3686 now.