If You are an Agency Nurse in Utah and Your Contract or License is at Risk, The Lento Law Firm Can Help

If you hold a valid nursing license from the state of Utah and you have been accused of misconduct while working for a medical staffing agency, you need to be proactive. Your contract with the company and your ability to continue working as an agency nurse or travel nurse may be called into question. In addition, your license and ability to practice nursing may be in jeopardy. Your career and livelihood can be upended if a patient, another healthcare practitioner, or a hospital makes a formal complaint about you. Allegations of wrongdoing can derail years of determination, study, and hard work. In Utah, when a nurse faces a complaint, the state will investigate the matter and possibly take disciplinary action. This action can include the loss of licensure. The healthcare staffing agency may terminate your contract as well. Complaints can lead to serious consequences, so it is important to take all allegations seriously. You should not ignore an allegation, even if you think it is baseless. You need to immediately begin to defend yourself, and to do that, you need an experienced law firm to help you navigate the obstacles of the state disciplinary process and the issues that can arise with your staffing agency. 

The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is ready to assist you. The team has a great deal of experience defending nurses, doctors, and other licensed professionals who face accusations of wrongdoing. An attorney with the Professional License Defense Team will go over your situation, answer your questions, explain how your case will proceed, discuss the available options, and work with you to pursue the most favorable resolution of the matter. Knowledge and experience are important, and the Lento Law Firm is ready to advocate on your behalf, regardless of your location in Utah. From Clinton to Provo to Salt Lake City to Washington, as well as nationwide, the Lento Law Firm is your best option for legal assistance. Reach out to us at 888-535-3686 or contact us by using this online form

The Nurse Licensing Process in Utah 

The Utah Department of Commerce's Division of Professional Licensing (DPL) handles the licensing process for nurses within the state. Individuals who desire to be licensed as a Licensed Professional Nurse or a Registered Nurse must pass the National Council Licensing Examination, commonly called the NCLEX. After passing the test, an individual can seek a license from the DPL by submitting an application along with their fingerprints. Authorities will use the fingerprints as part of a background check. Note that if the DPL discovers any criminal history during the check, it cannot reveal that information to anyone outside of the division. 

The DPL also takes care of licenses for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. In addition, Utah participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact and, as a member, allows nurses who hold a license from another state to practice within the state. 

In Utah, nurses must renew their licenses periodically. The DPL will mail a renewal notice to an individual at least 60 days before their license expires. To obtain a renewal, a nurse must have completed at least 400 hours of licensed practice within the past two years. In the alternative, a nurse must have completed at least 200 hours of licensed practice together with 15 hours of continuing education classes, or 30 hours of classes. In addition to these requirements, a nurse seeking renewal of a license must complete suicide prevention training. Note that if a nurse's license has been in expired status for more than two years the DPL does not allow renewal. The nurse must submit a new license application. 

When issuing licenses for any profession, one of the DPL's main goals is public safety. As a result, the division may deny a nursing license to an applicant who has a criminal history that relates to their ability to practice their profession in a safe and competent manner. 

If someone with a criminal history is interested in obtaining a nursing license but is concerned that a past offense may prevent licensure, Utah allows them to find out in advance. An individual can apply to the DPL for a decision on whether their criminal record would prevent them from obtaining a nursing license. The DPL must provide an answer within 30 days of receiving the application. This process allows an individual with a criminal history to find out whether the time and expense of pursuing a nursing license will be worthwhile. 

The DPL has criminal history guidelines that it uses as a starting point when making its licensing decisions for the nursing profession. The DPL uses the guidelines when someone submits an advance request and when an applicant submits a license application without requesting the advance determination. The guidelines are not hard and fast and are instead intended only to give the public a generalized idea of the division's decision-making process when an applicant has a history of an offense. The guidelines contain a list of offenses and a timeline chart referencing the date when the offense in question took place. The DPL will make its determination on an individual basis and consider mitigating and aggravating factors as well as current laws. 

Utah may also deny a nursing license when a court has determined that the applicant is mentally incompetent. In addition, the DPL may deny a license when an applicant is unable to practice nursing with reasonable skill and safety because of illness, drunkenness, excessive drug use, or a mental or physical condition that poses a threat or potential threat to public safety. 

Utah, however, does have some specific prohibitions that will cause automatic denial of a license application. As an example, the DPL will automatically deny a nursing license to an applicant who has been convicted of, or pled guilty to, a violent felony. In Utah, violent felonies include offenses such as abuse or neglect of a disabled child, abuse or exploitation of a vulnerable adult, arson, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, and unlawful discharge of a firearm. 

Agency Nursing in Utah 

An agency nurse staffing business places nurses in hospitals and medical facilities that need more staff. Medical facilities such as rehabilitation centers, long-term care centers, nursing homes, and clinics often need agency nurses so they can provide the proper level of care to patients. The agency hires nurses for jobs as needed, and the nurses can usually choose their desired placement locations and shifts. Placements may be local to a nurse's home, or in another city. The compensation rate and length of the placement depend on the medical facility's staffing needs. Some placements may last for weeks or months, while others are completed in days. Travel nurses are similar to agency nurses but usually travel around the country to accept temporary positions. 

Agency nurses and travel nurses can have varying practice specialties, and the staffing company takes this into account when sending them to medical facilities. Agency nurses and travel nurses often specialize in emergency room work, pediatrics, surgery, and cardiac care, for example. Some agency nurses and travel nurses do not have a specialty and can work in a variety of medical settings where help is needed. 

Although agency nurses and travel nurses perform many of the same duties as nurses who are on staff at a hospital or medical facility, they are not salaried employees. Instead, both types of nurses receive their pay from the staffing company, and they often do not receive benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and a retirement plan. Staffing agencies usually pay their nurses an hourly wage since the majority of assignments are short-term. 

Many medical facilities like to use agency nurses and travel nurses because they do not have to go through a hiring process and can save money on employee benefits. Facilities also like to use agency nurses and travel nurses because these professionals can immediately fill in when there are staffing shortages or replace staff who are on vacation. 

Agency nurses and travel nurses enter into contracts with their staffing companies, which in turn have their own contracts with the medical facilities they serve. A nurse's contract usually spells out the duration of the placement, the wages, details of the assignment, and whether the nurse is an independent contractor or an employee. The contract may contain a provision that allows the staffing company to end the contract at any point in time and for any reason. The nurse may also be able to end the contract at any time, provided notice is given to the agency within a certain time period. Every nursing agency in Utah is different, and their contracts are different as well. 

Standards of Practice for Agency Nurses in Utah 

Agency nurses and travel nurses hold great responsibility when working at a hospital or other medical facility. Their responsibilities are no different than those of nurses employed directly by the facility. Utah understands this great responsibility, and state law sets forth standards of practice for all nurses. According to the law, all licensed nurses are obligated to keep their work within legal parameters and can only perform acts and practices for which they are competent. 

In addition, Utah's standards of practice provide that all nurses must demonstrate honesty and integrity in their nursing practice, base decisions on nursing knowledge, skills, and patient needs, seek clarification of orders when needed, and obtain training when encountering new equipment, new technology, or unfamiliar care situations. They must also show attentiveness when providing care, implement care properly and in a timely manner, document the care provided, and communicate relevant patient information to other healthcare team members. 

Further, all nurses must take preventive measures to protect themselves, patients, and others, respect patients' rights, concerns, decisions, and dignity, promote a safe patient environment, maintain appropriate professional boundaries, and respect a patient's property. Utah also says nurses must protect confidential information, accept responsibility for individual nursing actions, maintain continued competence through ongoing learning, and comply with the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses

Prohibited Acts for Agency Nurses in Utah 

Because Utah intends to protect the public's health and safety, the law specifically prohibits all nurses, including agency nurses and travel nurses, from engaging in a number of acts. The law divides the prohibited acts into the categories of unlawful conduct and unprofessional conduct. In Utah, unlawful conduct consists of: 

  • Using titles, names, or initials such as nurse, licensed practical nurse, practical nurse, L.P.N., registered nurse, R.N.; medication aide certified, M.A.C., registered nurse practitioner, N.P., R.N.P., registered nurse specialist, N.S., R.N.S., registered psychiatric mental health nurse specialist, advanced practice registered nurse, nurse anesthetist, certified nurse anesthetist, certified registered nurse anesthetist, C.R.N.A., or any other commonly recognized nursing profession names or titles when an individual is not properly licensed; 
  • Using any other name, title, or initials that would lead someone to believe the user is licensed when the user is not properly licensed; and 
  • Conducting an unapproved nursing education program. 

Under Utah law, a violation of one of the unlawful conduct provisions is a criminal offense. A nurse will face a felony charge or a misdemeanor charge, depending on the exact provision violated. 

Utah considers, for example, the following conduct to be unprofessional conduct: 

  • “The failure to safeguard privacy with regard to a patient's person, condition, diagnosis, personal effects, or any other matter the nurse knows about as a result of their nursing practice; 
  • The failure to provide nursing services in a way that shows respect for a patient's human dignity, unique personal character, and needs without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, sex, or the nature of the health problem; 
  • Engaging in sexual relations with a patient while a generally recognized professional relationship exists, or during an extended period when the patient has reasonable cause to believe a professional relationship exists; 
  • Exploiting or using information about a patient, or the nurses' professional relationship with the patient, as a result of a sexual relationship; 
  • Exploiting the patient, as a result of a sexual relationship, by using knowledge about the patient obtained while acting as a nurse; 
  • Illegally obtaining, possessing, or using a prescription drug or illicit drug; 
  • Taking, or personally using, an employer's nursing supplies or a patient's personal property, without authorization; 
  • The illegal or inappropriate delegation of nursing care; 
  • The failure to properly supervise people providing patient care services; 
  • Employing, or aiding in the employment of, an unqualified or unlicensed nurse; 
  • The failure to file or record any medical report required by law, impeding the filing of such a report, or inducing someone to fail to file such a report; 
  • The breach of a patient confidentiality requirement; 
  • The failure to pay a penalty ordered by the DPL; 
  • Violating Utah's standards of practice for nurses; 
  • Performing or inducing an abortion; and 
  • Making a false entry in, or changing, a medical record to conceal a wrongful or negligent act or omission by a nurse or individual under direction or control of a nurse, or to conceal certain types of unprofessional conduct.” 

Agency nurses and travel nurses must also abide by all other state and federal laws concerning illegal behavior, just as everyone else does. 

Discipline of Agency Nurses in Utah 

Anyone who wants to file a complaint against a licensed agency nurse or travel nurse in Utah can do so. Members of the public, other healthcare professionals, and patients and their family members can make a complaint by filing online or by using a paper form. When the DPL receives a complaint, it will review it to see whether an investigation is warranted. If an investigation is needed, the DPL's investigator will review records and documents, interview the nurse, the complaining party, and any witnesses, and consult with experts if necessary. The DPL will then decide whether to take disciplinary action against the nurse's license. The DPL will not recover money for the complaining party or resolve any dispute between the party and the nurse. The DPL only acts against a license. Note that the DPL can notify law enforcement if a complaint indicates that a criminal offense may have occurred. 

In Utah, the DPL can take disciplinary action by refusing to renew a nursing license, suspending or revoking a license, placing a license into probationary status, putting restrictions on a license, and issuing fines and public reprimands. The DPL may take any of these disciplinary actions when a nurse has engaged in unprofessional conduct or unlawful conduct or when a court has found a license holder to be mentally incompetent. The division may also act when a licensee is unable to practice nursing with skill and safety due to illness, drunkenness, the use of drugs, or a mental or physical condition that poses a threat or potential threat to public safety. 

When the DPL decides a complaint is valid, it will handle it either formally or informally. The informal process is handled in one of three ways. The first involves an administrative citation, consisting of a fine or, cease and desist order, or both. The second involves a stipulated agreement, which is a written settlement accepted by all parties concerning the agency nurse's license. This agreement may arise when an agency nurse voluntarily gives up their license or when a citation is issued. The third process consists of an informal adjudicative proceeding that involves a file review as opposed to a hearing. 

The formal resolution of a complaint is handled through either a stipulated agreement or a formal adjudicative proceeding, which is similar to, but not the same as, a civil court hearing. The proceeding allows both sides to present evidence, take testimony, and offer defenses. An administrative law judge rules on all evidence, procedures, and legal issues. The DPL will consider the evidence and make a recommendation about the nurse's license. The DPL's director will then accept the recommendation or issue a modified or supplemental decision. 

In Utah, a nurse can appeal a decision that impacts their license. The appeals process starts at the administrative level and can move on to the civil court system. The appeals process gives an agency nurse or a travel nurse additional chances to fight against disciplinary action. 

Further, Utah law says that an agency nurse or travel nurse who has been subject to suspension, revocation, probation, or restriction can apply for a license reinstatement in many circumstances. 

Agency Nurses and Disputes with their Agency in Utah 

When someone files a complaint with the DPL, or when a hospital or medical facility learns of possible misconduct, an agency nurse or a travel nurse may be ordered off the premises and banned from returning. In addition, the staffing agency may terminate the nurse. These things can happen fast, and they can happen before the DPL makes a decision on possible disciplinary action. Medical facilities and staffing agencies want to maintain professionalism and safety, but agency nurses and travel nurses want to maintain their placement and their ability to continue working, of course. Depending on the circumstances, the termination may be justified, or it may be improper. The termination may be in violation of the terms of the nurse's contract, or it may be permissible. Each agency is different, and their contracts are different as well. 

Retain The Lento Law Firm for Professional License Defense in Utah 

No one wants to be accused of misconduct, and no one wants their ability to practice nursing called into question. However, situations sometimes arise, and an agency nurse or travel nurse finds themselves in a fight to retain their license and agency contract. And when that happens, you should not take any chances. You've worked too long and too hard to take any allegations lightly. You need to defend yourself to the best of your ability because your career and livelihood may be at stake. Do not delay because there is too much at risk. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can handle cases throughout the entire state of Utah, and they know what to do when a nursing license is under fire. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online


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