As a nurse in Iowa, you have made many hard sacrifices along the way to obtain your nursing license and career. Your license not only speaks to your expertise and professionalism, but it represents your dedication to public service. However, misunderstandings and mistakes may put you at risk of having your nursing license denied, suspended, or revoked. Fortunately, many federal and state laws protect your license in Iowa as well as your eNLC license to practice nursing in other compact states. If your Iowa nursing license is currently under attack, contact national Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and his dedicated Professional License Defense Team today for help protecting your career and reputation.
The Nursing Profession in Iowa
According to a 2020 Survey Report published by The Iowa Center for Nursing Workforce, there are over 50,600 nurses in Iowa. Most of the nurses are employed at hospitals such as the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, MercyOne Des Moines Medical Centre, and Saint Luke's Hospital. High employment numbers followed for nurses employed in an office or clinical setting, followed closely by long-term care facilities and home health care positions. The report further states that although Iowa Nurses earn, on average, 19% less than the national median for nurses, Iowa still has a higher concentration of active RNs compared to the rest of the county. In fact, there are 15 nurses per 1,000 citizens in Iowa compared to the national average of 9 nurses per 1,000 citizens.
Administrative Law and Your Iowa Nursing License
Administrative law is a specific area of law that governs legal principles and procedures as they relate to governmental administrative agencies. Some Iowa state agencies that fall under administrative law would include the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Iowa Board of Nursing. The Iowa Board of Nursing has the authority under state law to enforce the rules and regulations of the nursing profession in Iowa. The nursing board has also been granted the authority to create the legal framework for issuing nursing licenses, responding to disciplinary issues, and overseeing appeals.
Administrative law is important for Iowa nurses to understand because it provides you with certain rights that you may need if you find yourself facing allegations of professional misconduct, negligence, etc. The experienced Professional License Defense Team at The Lento Law Firm can help you by ensuring that you understand your rights and that you are protected by the various administrative laws that govern the nursing profession and your nursing license.
Under the law, you are also owed protection through a legal standard known as "Due Process." Due process simply means that you have the right to be notified about any allegations against you and share your side of the story with a neutral third party before any disciplinary action is taken.
Nursing License Regulation in Iowa
If your license is potentially at threat of being denied, suspended, or revoked, you should start by understanding the various legal frameworks that govern your Iowa nursing license.
The Iowa Board of Nursing
In Iowa, nursing licenses are issued and monitored by the Iowa Board of Nursing. The Board is granted legal authority to regulate and enforce regulations regarding nursing education and practices pursuant to Iowa Code Chapters 17, 147, 152, and 272C. Under these various sections, the Board is granted authority to investigate complaints, hold disciplinary hearings, and impose disciplinary measures for nurses found to violate the Iowa Nursing Practice Standards. Aside from enforcement and disciplinary actions, the Board is also trusted with the mission to "protect the public health, safety and welfare" of citizens in Iowa that may be threatened by wrongful behavior or conduct of all licensed nurses in the state, including RN's LPN's and ARNP's.
The Iowa Nursing Practice Standards
The Iowa Nursing Practice Standards were first enacted in 1917 and contain comprehensive laws that provide the legal framework for the nursing profession in Iowa. The act is codified in Iowa law in Title XV, Chapter 152 of the Iowa Code.
The main purpose of the nursing standards is to protect Iowa citizens by ensuring that nurses meet specific standards of competence, professionalism, and ethical behavior. The Code also lays out the requirements for the ongoing professional development of nurses and lays out the specific protocols that must be followed when nurses violate the law's established standards and are subjected to disciplinary procedures.
The Iowa Administrative Code
The Iowa Administrative Code is a compilation of the various rules and regulations promulgated by all the state agencies in Iowa, including the Board of Nursing. The Code provides specific guidance on how the statutes, such as those contained in the Iowa Nursing Practice standards, must be implemented and enforced. The Code also expands on the provisions located within the Nursing Practice Standards and provides greater clarity on topics such as state licensure requirements, continuing education requirements, and disciplinary procedures.
The Interstate Nursing Compact and your eNLC License
The Interstate Nursing Compact, also known as the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact ("eNLC,") is an agreement between participating states that allows nurses to practice in any participating state under a uniform multistate license. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, as of 2023, 40 states participate in the compact, including Iowa. States that do not participate in the compact include Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Minnesota, Illinois, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The eNLC is governed by the Board of Nursing, an administrative agency that monitors and oversees disciplinary action against all nurses with an eNLC license.
In Iowa, the Interstate Nursing Compact is implemented in Section 655, Chapter 6 of the Iowa Administrative Code. Some of the benefits for Nurses with an eNLC license include the following:
- Increased Employment Opportunities: The eNLC allows Iowa Nurses to ability to practice in 39 other compact states, giving nurses with an eNLC license exposure to more employment opportunities across the United States. This is beneficial for nurses who want to relocate temporarily and work as travel nurses or for nurses who want to maintain residency in Iowa but pursue virtual employment opportunities through remote work such as research institutions or telehealth medicine.
- Hassle-Free Licensing: Because only one eNLC license is needed to practice in all 40 compact states, nurses only have to meet one set of uniform licensing requirements and ongoing requirements such as continuing education requirements and annual fees.
Do I Have To Comply With Iowa State Law Even If I Am Licensed Under The eNLC?
Yes. Although you must meet the professional standards required by the Board of Nursing, you must still comply with the laws, regulations, and practice requirements in whatever state you are providing patient care. For example, even though you may be a nurse residing in Iowa with an active Iowa and eNLC license, if you provide telehealth services to patients in Florida, you must adhere to the laws and practice requirements in Florida.
How Do I Obtain An eNLC License?
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, if at the time you applied for your nursing license in Iowa, you declared Iowa (or any other compact state for that matter) as your" primary state of residence and met the licensure requirements," you should have automatically been issued both your Iowa state nursing license as well as your eNLC license.
Can I Lose My eNLC License?
Yes. Pursuant to Article III of the Board of Nursing Provisions, compact states can pursue disciplinary actions when a nurse violates that state's nursing practice act. Article V also allows states to revoke a nurse's ability to practice in their state even if the nurse is still under investigation or allowed to practice in other states. For example, even if you have complied with the nursing requirements in Iowa, if you have failed to meet adequate practice standards in Florida, your ability to practice nursing care in Florida can be revoked. The Board of Nursing can also revoke your ability to practice in all compact states through the implementation of its own disciplinary procedures.
If you are facing potential suspension or revocation of your ability to practice in one or all of the eNLC compact states, the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is well-versed in the requirements, procedures, and disciplinary steps of the eNLC. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form to tell us about your unique circumstances.
Conduct That May Place Your Iowa Nursing License at Risk
Some allegations that could potentially place your nursing license at risk are discussed below.
Professional misconduct is a term that encompasses a wide range of behaviors that violate professional standards required by the Iowa Board of Nursing. Some examples of professional misconduct allegations can include:
- Incompetent care when using technical equipment, caring for patients, conducting administrative work, etc.
- Substance abuse
- Caring for patients or conducting work duties despite a physical or mental impairment that affects your ability to exercise proper judgment or perform certain skills.
- Fraud, such as falsifying personal records or patient records
- Misuse of company or hospital property, such as using medical equipment for personal reasons
- Breaching patient confidentiality standards
- Improper sexual or romantic relationships with patients
- Failing to report known or suspected professional misconduct of coworkers, supervisors, interns, etc.
The Iowa Board of Nursing also indicates that violations of the Iowa Code may include the following type of behavior and/or conduct:
- Abusive physical, verbal, or sexual behavior.
- Boundary issues, including exploitation or sexual misconduct
- Scope of practice issues
- Nurse License Compact violations.
Professional misconduct allegations, even if later declared unfounded, can damage your professional reputation and have severe consequences on your ability to seek future employment, gain promotions, etc. Although you may be found innocent, your career may still suffer as a result of the rumors and gossip. If your license is currently being threatened because of professional misconduct allegations, you should fight these allegations early and effectively. Contact our Professional License Defense Team today for more information on protecting your reputation.
Criminal Arrests, Charges, and Convictions
Criminal arrests, charges, and convictions can have serious implications on your Iowa nursing career. The Iowa Board of Nursing requires nurses to report their entire criminal history to the Board. Although criminal records may not be an immediate reason for license denial, suspension, or revocation, the Board indicates that they will consider several factors, including the "severity of the crime, amount of time elapsed since it occurred, and your life since then."
It's important to note that the more related a criminal matter is to your ability to practice nursing, the more serious the Board will take it. For instance, the Board may pursue disciplinary action for criminal substance abuse charges because you cannot care for patients while under the influence.
If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime and need assistance navigating how your criminal matter may affect your Iowa nursing license, the Lento Law firm Professional License Defense Team can help.
Standard of Care Violations
Because nurses are entrusted with the responsibility of saving lives, they are held to extremely high professional standards and must adhere to a high standard of care while caring for patients. Some examples of standard of care violations may include:
- Medication errors, such as failing to administer medication or administering the wrong medication.
- Failure to follow proper protocols.
- Failure to apply proper techniques when caring for patients, such as when drawing blood, performing CPR, etc.
Ethical violations speak to your character and judgment. Because of their nature, some ethical violations may impede your ability to provide proper nursing care and treat patients fairly and respectfully. Some examples of ethical violations may include conflicts of interest, boundary violations, and engaging in improper relationships with patients.
Failure to comply with documentation requirements may also affect your license. Some examples of failure to comply with documentation issues may include failure to properly renew your license, inform the Board about any name changes, failure to respond to audits from the Board, or failure to follow proper documentation protocols when caring for patients.
Conduct that the Iowa Board of Nursing Does Not Regulate
Due to their nature, the Iowa Board of Nursing has indicated that certain behaviors fall under the jurisdiction of law enforcement or other state agencies. Some behavior that the Board will not investigate include:
- Unlicensed persons who claim to be nurses.
- Complaints against certified nursing assistants, certified medication aides, residential care workers, or nursing aides.
- Complaints involving physicians or physician assistants.
- Insurance or billing grievances that do not allege any inappropriate actions undertaken by Iowa nurses, such as falsifying records, etc.
Conduct That Places Your eLAC License at Risk
Because the various types of professional misconduct, criminal conduct, standard of care violations, ethical violations, and documentation issues discussed above affect a nurse's ability to safely carry out their duties while caring for patients, these allegations may also trigger an investigation by the Board of Nursing, potentially jeopardizing your eLAC license in one or all compact states.
According to the Iowa Board of Nursing, if a complaint is filed against a nurse in another compact state, the Board will investigate the allegation and determine whether the conduct also affects a nurse's privilege to practice in Iowa.
If you have been notified by the Board of Nursing that your eLAC license is under investigation, this may greatly affect your ability to continue practicing in Iowa. Our Professional License Defense Team is well-versed in eLAC policies and procedures and ready to discuss your unique situation. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686 or tell us about your case online.
The Disciplinary Process in Iowa
If you are being investigated by the Iowa Board of Nursing, you are owed Due Process Rights under the law. As discussed above, Due Process rights include the right to be notified about the allegations against you and the right to defend yourself by sharing your side of the story.
The Investigatory Phase
According to the Iowa Board of Nursing's disciplinary procedures, after receiving a complaint for alleged violations, the matter will be assigned to one of eight investigators employed by the Board. The investigator will then inform you about the allegations and may request further information from you, such as a written statement, court records, etc. They may also reach out to your employer for work-related documents such as patient records, HR documents, etc. If any witnesses are involved, the investigator may also interview them about the alleged incident.
The Complaint and Resolution Phase
After conducting the investigation, the Board will either determine that there is not sufficient evidence to support further action and close the case or pursue official claims. Pursuant to the Board's disciplinary procedures, If the Board pursues claims, they will notify you via forms entitled "Notice of Hearing" and an official "Statement of Charges." At this time, the matter can either be resolved through an official settlement agreement or through a formal hearing held before an administrative law judge. Whether you proceed to resolve the matter through a settlement agreement or through a formal hearing, it's important to note that both of these are binding legal matters that require a great deal of legal aptitude , and you should seek the assistance of our Professional License Defense Team to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process!
If you choose to resolve the matter through a settlement agreement with the Board of Nursing, you must adhere to any requirements that are outlined in the agreement. Although each agreement will vary from case to case, they typically include requirements that address the underlying alleged misconduct. Some examples of requirements under these types of settlement agreements may include attending anger management, enrolling in substance abuse counseling, completing additional professional education courses, etc. Your license may also be temporarily suspended.
If you do not agree to any settlement offers from the Board of Nursing, you will have the right to present your side of the story at a formal hearing held before an administrative law judge. These hearings are best understood as "mini-trials" and require in-depth legal knowledge of the laws of evidence and the Administrative Code, as well as the rules and regulations that make up the Iowa Nursing Practice Act. Fortunately, the Lento Law firm's Professional License Defense Team has expansive knowledge and experience defending nurses in administrative hearings and can help you by gathering evidence, preparing to testify, etc.
Decision and Reinstatement Phase
After the hearing, you will be notified of the formal decision. You may be found innocent, or you may be given a sanction(s), some of which include:
- An official citation and warning.
- A civil penalty and/or fine.
- Directions to complete additional and/or specific continuing education units.
- License probation with conditions in place.
- License revocation.
If your license is surrendered, suspended, or revoked, you may appeal the decision and/or seek readmission through an application for reinstatement of your license pursuant to Iowa Administrative Code, Chapter 655, Section 20.36.
In order to have your license reinstated, the Iowa Board of Nursing requires applicants to complete a written personal statement addressing why the circumstances that led to your disciplinary procedures have been resolved. For example, if your license was suspended for substance abuse or anger management issues, you would want to write a personal statement addressing what steps you have taken in your life to remedy your substance abuse and anger management struggles. In these examples, the Board may also request further information documenting your progress, such as proof of completion of a sobriety class, anger management class, a letter from a counselor, drug tests, etc.
The Board further clarifies that any requests for reinstatement will not be addressed unless they comply with all of the requirements outlined in the Administrative Code. Because you must adhere to strict legal requirements when submitting a request for reinstatement, it is best to work with our Professional License Defense Team, which is experienced in drafting these requests. If you need help seeking reinstatement of your nursing license in Iowa, don't wait! Contact us today by calling 888-535-3886 or tell us about your case online.
The Consequences of Losing Your Iowa Nursing License
Losing your Iowa Nursing Lice can have drastic consequences on your professional and personal life. Not only can you lose your ability to earn income, but your professional reputation may also suffer, making it incredibly hard to gain future employment. Losing your license may also lead to feelings of depression, loss, and anxiety, placing strain on your personal relationships. Lastly, without the satisfaction that comes from helping patients, you may feel directionless and lost, forcing you to redefine your sense of self.
Don't Face the Challenge of Losing Your Iowa Nursing License Alone; Contact the Lento Law Firm Today!
If you are worried that you may lose your nursing license or have already lost your license and need assistance submitting a request for reinstatement, we can help! Don't attempt to navigate the expansive nursing laws in Iowa while also juggling the emotional stresses of job insecurity and loss. The compassionate and experienced Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law firm understands the complexities that come with fighting allegations and charges issued by the Iowa Board of Nursing. We proudly represent nurses all over Iowa, including Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Cedar Falls. Contact us today to discuss your case by calling 888-535-3686 or tell us about your case online.