As a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), your entire career hinges on your professional license. LPNs are an integral part of the health care system, working under the direction of registered nurses and doctors to provide basic care to patients. LPNs may also be responsible for ordering and administering medication, taking vital signs, and educating patients on how to manage their own health. Essentially, as an LPN, you shoulder much of the day-to-day patient care that overworked physicians and RNs would otherwise be overwhelmed by.
Because the role of LPNs is so critical to the system, the state Board of Nursing takes it very seriously when allegations of misconduct arise. Nursing boards exercise a lot of power, and the burden of proof for disciplinary action is quite low. It is important for LPNs to know what to do if they find themselves in a situation where their professional license is at risk. As an experienced professional license defense attorney, Joseph D. Lento has helped many nurses facing licensing issues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. The Lento Law Firm has compiled the following common questions and answers, so you'll know what to expect if you are notified by the board of possible disciplinary action.
What Agency Will I Answer to for Questions of Misconduct?
As with all nurses, LPNs are licensed and regulated by the state nursing board for the state where they work. If you are licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you'll answer to your State Board of Nursing; in New York, you are responsible to the Nursing division of the Office of the Professions. Should allegations of misconduct arise, your state's Board of Nursing (BON) will look into the allegations and determine what disciplinary actions to take against your license.
What Types of Offenses Could Cause Me To Lose My LPN License?
The Board of Nursing holds Licensed Practical Nurses to high standards of excellence, professionalism, and ethical behavior, and therefore, the allegations most likely to result in loss of license have to do with some violation of those standards. The top complaints for LPNs include:
- Inappropriate behavior. Examples include acting unprofessionally toward patience, using inappropriate language, engaging in romantic relationships with patients, sexual misconduct, etc.
- Substance abuse and addiction. Your license could be revoked if for suspected chemical dependency and addiction, especially if you are observed as drunk or high on the job.
- Violations of nurse-patient boundaries. Examples include using one's position to manipulate the patient, breaching patient confidentiality, etc.
- Mishandling medications. You could lose your LPN license if you're accused of mishandling medications, keeping sloppy inventories/paperwork, or taking medications for personal use.
- Fraud. Overbilling insurance, "upcoding" certain procedures with insurance companies, billing for services not rendered, falsifying patient records...these are just a few examples of fraudulent activity that could cost you your LPN license.
- Criminal convictions. The BON could possibly revoke your license in the wake of convictions for crimes of moral turpitude such as theft, DUI/DWI, drug possession, etc. LPNs are also required to report any convictions or arrests to the board, so failing to do so could also cost you your license.
Can the BON Impose Other Penalties That Would Allow Me To Keep My License?
Yes, they can. Not every offense results in having your license revoked. There are many options to impose discipline without affecting your ability to practice. The BON may impose any of the following penalties depending on your particular case:
- License suspension. The board may prohibit you from practicing for a temporary period of time pending review.
- Practice restrictions. The scope of your license may be restricted by the BON, and you may be prohibited from performing certain functions.
- Fines. You may be fined by the board as a disciplinary measure.
- Alternative-to-discipline program. The board might require you to undergo continuing education or to attend a treatment program as a prerequisite for keeping your license.
- Formal Reprimand. A written reprimand or censure may be placed in your file.
Can These Lesser Sanctions Still Do Damage to My LPN Career?
Yes, they can. Any disciplinary action will be recorded on your professional record, which is publicly searchable. Employers and patients may not be willing to work with you if they look you up and find out that you have been disciplined.
What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like?
The process will differ slightly from board to board and from state to state. However, most State Boards of Nursing will follow a disciplinary procedure similar to the following:
Almost every disciplinary action begins when someone files a formal complaint against you with the BON. The complaint may come from a patient, coworker, colleague, or other healthcare professionals.
The board reviews the complaint in order to determine if it has jurisdiction over the alleged offense.
Once the BON verifies the complaint, it will open an investigation, which may last for weeks or months. During this time, you will likely be asked to respond to the complaint in writing, giving your side of the story. The BON may also subpoena documents, visit your workplace, interview witnesses, etc. If the board finds insufficient evidence to support the complaint, it may dismiss the complaint at this point. Otherwise, the disciplinary process will move ahead.
If the board finds sufficient evidence against you, it might offer to have you sign a consent decree as an alternative to moving into a formal hearing. With a consent agreement, you voluntarily admit to wrongdoing and agree to submit to the board's disciplinary actions.
A full hearing is held before the Board of Nursing or an Administrative Law judge if no consent decree has been reached. You will have an opportunity to answer the complaint, and you can have a lawyer represent you at the hearing.
Final board determination
The board will decide your guilt or innocence and impose any sanctions it deems appropriate.
An unfavorable state decision can be appealed to the appellate courts of your state. These appeals are used most often to review the case for procedural errors, but they rarely change the outcome.
At any time during this process, the Board of Nursing may opt to dismiss the complaint and forego disciplinary action. A skilled professional license defense attorney can negotiate with the board to minimize the risk to your LPN license.
What Should I Do if the BON Sends Me a Letter Requesting Information?
If you receive any type of correspondence from the board--a request for information, notice of investigation, or notice of hearing--don't hesitate to contact an attorney. Even if you think you can handle things on your own, it's always best to have an attorney's help in such matters.
An experienced professional license defense lawyer will help you gather the appropriate information and submit it to the board in a way that protects your interests. They will also advise you on how to respond to any questions from the BON.
Can the Board Suspend My License Without a Hearing?
Yes—the board can issue a temporary emergency suspension of your license without a hearing if it feels that you are an immediate danger to the public. The length of the suspension and any requirements for reinstatement will be at the board's discretion.
Is It a Good Idea To Agree to a Consent Decree?
It depends. A consent decree may be a good option if you are likely to face disciplinary action anyway due to the evidence against you, and especially if the decree offers a pathway to reinstatement. On the other hand, a consent decree constitutes an admission of guilt on your part, and the decree will become part of your public record. It may be more beneficial to present your case in a formal hearing than to sign a consent decree, especially if you have sufficient evidence to prove your innocence. A professional license defense attorney should review your case before you sign any consent decree.
Won't I Be Presumed Guilty if I Hire an Attorney?
Not at all. The board is used to dealing with lawyers, and since this is effectively a legal matter, you have every right to be represented by a legal expert. The BON won't presume you are guilty if you hire an attorney.
Why Do I Need an Attorney? Can't I Just Resolve This Matter Informally With the Board of Nursing?
You have the right to represent yourself before the board, of course, but it's not advisable to do so. Many licensed professionals, LPNs included, make the mistake of underestimating the board. The BON is not your friend--they exist to protect the public, not you. Once a complaint is filed, the BON actively starts looking for evidence against you. This means that any attempt at meeting with the board informally may backfire, and your statements to the board could end up being used against you.
You are far more likely to keep your LPN license with the help of a professional license defense attorney who understands how the board works. An attorney can help protect your rights and negotiate for a better outcome for you.
What Kind of Attorney Should I Look For?
For best results, seek out an attorney who has experience with professional license defense. has specific knowledge and experience in professional license defense and administrative law. While any licensed attorney can legally represent you, you really need someone who has specific knowledge and experience in dealing with state licensing boards.
Can a License Defense Attorney Help Me Get My License Reinstated if It Has Already Been Revoked?
Yes. Most states will offer a reinstatement process for your license if you meet certain requirements. You may need to complete certain steps to qualify for reinstatement, such as:
- Submitting a written request for reinstatement along with an explanation of why your application should be considered
- Paying any filing fees or unpaid fines
- Listing all jobs you had while your LPN license was inactive
- Providing proof that you have satisfied all requirements of the board for reinstatement (e.g., continuing education or treatment programs)
- Agree to any plan of action imposed by the BON for your reinstatement
A professional license defense lawyer can help coordinate your reinstatement application and keep track of the progress. They will also negotiate the best terms for your reinstatement.
What Can a Good Attorney Do To Help Me Keep My LPN License?
Your chances for a positive outcome go up considerably when you hire a good attorney to help you. An experienced attorney will:
- Make sure you understand the complaint against you and all its ramifications
- Develop a defense strategy that has the best chance of success
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story
- Negotiate with the BON at multiple points for the dismissal of your complaint and/or reduced sanctions, if applicable
- Represent you in all interactions with the board, including a formal hearing
- Coordinate your application for reinstatement if your license was suspended or revoked
I Just Received a Notice of a Complaint Against My LPN License. When Should I Hire an Attorney?
The sooner, the better. Don't wait for a formal hearing if you haven't been summoned because by then, the BON will have already composed its arguments against you. Early involvement of a professional license lawyer may assist you in avoiding a hearing and even get the complaint dismissed.
If you're a Licensed Practical Nurse facing possible disciplinary action, don't take unnecessary risks to your career by trying to go it alone. Hiring the right attorney can save your LPN license and your career by extension. Attorney Joseph D. Lento fully understands the workings of licensing boards and their disciplinary processes, and he will work tirelessly to assist you in obtaining positive results. If your license is under scrutiny in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or New York, take action now to protect your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case and your options.