Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are important to the New Mexico health care system. CRNAs provide a majority of anesthesia care across the state, particularly in rural areas where few specialists are available. However, CRNAs are also held to high professional standards. An allegation of professional misconduct can devastate your career as a nurse. That's why you need the experienced Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm by your side. If you're facing an investigation as a CRNA, call 888.535.3686 or contact them online to schedule a consultation today.
Licensing for CRNAs in New Mexico
In New Mexico, the state Board of Nursing (BON) is the state agency responsible for protecting citizens of the state by licensing nurses, regulating practice, taking complaints, and disciplining nurses who violate state laws and regulations. The board is also responsible for licensing CRNAs in the state.
CRNA Licensing in New Mexico
Nurse anesthetists in New Mexico are a category of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). To become a CRNA or APRN in the state, you need the following:
- A current RN license from New Mexico or a compact multilicense state that is in good standing,
- A degree from a school accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, which will be a master's or doctorate in nursing anesthesia,
- To complete the national certification exam from the National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthesia Anesthetists,
- To submit an application, transcripts, verification of exam passage, and a prescription affidavit.
Unfortunately, there is only one graduate-level CRNA program in New Mexico; the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs has very high standards. However, many programs exist in surrounding states, including Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona. New Mexico State University just launched a Doctor of Nursing Practice program focusing on rural health and health disparities. Top CRNA programs outside the state include:
- University of Arizona
- Texas Wesleyan's CRNA program, based in Denver, Colorado,
- University of Tulsa
- Baylor College, and
- Texas Christian University.
The University of New Mexico also has a new master's program for Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants. CRNA programs require intensive study and training. For example, for New Mexico State's DNP program, students can expect to complete at least 2,000 hours of supervised clinical training and rigorous didactic courses. To enter the program, you must already have at least one year of critical care nursing experience.
RN Licensing in New Mexico
To become a registered nurse in New Mexico, you must:
- Complete a bachelor's or associate's degree in nursing from a qualified school,
- Submit an RN exam application with the $110 nonrefundable application fee,
- Submit your official transcripts to the New Mexico BON,
- Complete a criminal background check, and
- Pass the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs (NCLEX).
You can work in New Mexico without obtaining a new license if you have a nursing license from a state in the nurse licensure compact.
Professional Standards for CRNA and APRNs in New Mexico
You can face disciplinary action in New Mexico for violating any portion of the Nursing Practice Act or its regulations. Some of the most common violations include:
- Using fraud or deceit to procure or attempt to procure a nursing license or certificate,
- Conviction of a felony,
- Being unfit or incompetent,
- Being intemperate,
- Addiction to habit-forming drugs,
- Being mentally incompetent, or
- Unprofessional conduct.
Unprofessional conduct under New Mexico's nursing regulations means failure to conform to the “minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing nursing practice” and includes:
- Misappropriating drugs, money, or property,
- Misconduct in delivering nursing services, including sexual misconduct, incompetence, impairment, and practicing beyond the scope of licensing,
- Misconduct involving patient records,
- Misconduct in the legal process, including failure to cooperate with a BON investigation, failure to follow state nursing laws and regulations, failure to report a nurse, and practicing without a license, and
- Misconduct in other procedures, including violating the Nursing Practice Act, aiding or abetting someone else in violating the NPA, failing to keep legible and accurate records, and physically or verbally threatening or abusing a patient, client, or colleague.
In New Mexico, you can also be referred to the BON's Diversion Program. A nurse can be referred to the program in one of three ways:
- Self-referral: You can report your issue with alcohol or chemical dependency and ask for permission to join the program,
- After receiving a complaint: You can request to join the Diversion Program after the BON receives a complaint about you or
- In lieu of board action: You can also request to join the Diversion Program if the BON seeks to take action against your license or as a condition for reinstatement after a suspension or revocation of your license.
If you are arrested or convicted of a crime, you must also report it to the NMBON. Failure to do so can result in additional sanctions. Under state law, a criminal conviction that can disqualify you from holding an APRN or RN license in New Mexico “means a conviction for a crime that is job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.” Disqualifying criminal convictions under state nursing regulations include:
- aggravated assault, aggravated battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, human trafficking, or other crimes of violence against persons;
- robbery, larceny, burglary, extortion, receiving stolen property, possession of burglary tools, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, or other crimes involving theft or appropriation of personal property or funds;
- rape, criminal sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact, incest, indecent exposure, child 3 solicitation, or other crimes constituting sexual offenses;
- driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs;
- trafficking controlled substances;
- crimes involving child abuse or neglect;
- fraud, forgery, money laundering, embezzlement, credit card fraud, counterfeiting, financial exploitation, or other crimes of altering any instrument affecting the rights or obligations of another;
- making a false statement under oath or in any official document;
- evasion of a lawful debt or obligation, including but not limited to tax obligations; or
- an attempt, solicitation or conspiracy involving any of the felonies in this subsection.
New Mexico's Disciplinary Process for CRNAs and APRNs
The disciplinary process begins in New Mexico with a complaint to the BON. Anyone, including colleagues, patients, employers, and the general public, can make a complaint. In fact, registered nurses in New Mexico who know a CRNA violated the Nursing Practice Act must report the CRNA to the board. When the BON receives a complaint, they must investigate, with the exception of nurses who self-refer themselves to the Diversion Program for addiction issues.
The Complaint and Investigation
If the BON determines that they have jurisdiction over the complaint and that the allegations, if true, violate the Nursing Practice Act or its regulations, they will investigate. The BON will assign an internal investigator to interview the complainant and other witnesses. They may also interview your employer and colleagues and ask you to submit to an interview or answer written interrogatories. After collecting all the relevant information, the investigator will complete a report and present it to the BON. This may take anywhere from three to six months, depending on the complexities of the case.
You must cooperate with any investigation, or you could find yourself facing additional disciplinary action. However, the need to cooperate doesn't mean you have to handle the complaint process or an interview independently. You need the experienced Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm to protect your rights during the process.
Informal CRNA Disciplinary Resolution in New Mexico
After the BON receives its report from the investigator, it will review the evidence and decide whether to impose sanctions. The threshold for punishment is violating the Nursing Practice Act. However, the BON will also consider any potential danger to the public and the severity of any violation. If they decide to proceed, they will issue a Notice of Contemplated Action against you. Sometimes, the BON may also attempt to resolve the matter informally through a consent agreement. A consent agreement is an agreement between you and the New Mexico BON agreeing to the disciplinary action, whether a formal reprimand or surrendering your license. However, you should never sign a consent agreement without a review and consultation from the Lento Law Firm's experienced Professional License Defense Team.
Formal CRNA Disciplinary Hearings in New Mexico
If you don't agree with the NMBON's decision and can't resolve the matter informally with the board, you can request an Administrative Hearing. During this formal disciplinary hearing, a prosecutor from the New Mexico State Attorney's office will present the case against you for the state. You can also present a defense and directly address the allegations against you. Both sides can present evidence, introduce witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses. You can and should have the Lento Law Firm's seasoned Professional License Defense Team representing you in a formal hearing.
After hearing all the evidence, the BON will deliberate and make a decision in an Executive Session. They will announce their verdict and any sanctions in a public hearing immediately after the Executive Session. The BON will also mail the written decision to you.
BON Penalties for CRNA and APRN Misconduct in New Mexico
If the BON decides against you, the sanction they impose will depend on the severity of the allegations and any potential danger to the public. Potential sanctions include:
- Letter of reprimand or concern,
- Restrictions on practice,
- Counseling or therapy,
- Entering the Diversion Program for chemical or alcohol dependency,
- Continuing nursing education,
- Supervision or practice or probation,
- Suspension of a license, and
- Revocation of a license.
As an alternative to disciplinary sanctions, the BON can issue a “serious letter of concern.” This letter will expressly state that it isn't a finding of guilt or responsibility, but it will state the specific provisions of the BON rules or NPA at issue. The serious letter of concern will also dismiss the complaint.
The BON will publicly report any disciplinary sanctions taken against your license and notify the interstate compact database NURSYS.
Appealing a New Mexico CRNA or APRN License Disciplinary Action
You can appeal if you feel that the BON's disciplinary action against you is unfair or unjust. First, after receiving the BON's final decision, you can request that the board reopen or reconsider your case in a written appeal, explaining why you believe the decision is unfair or wrong. The BON may choose to review or modify their decision in a vote and will notify you of their decision within 15 days after receiving your request.
If the BON votes against reopening your hearing, you may appeal the decision to the courts. An Administrative Law Judge will hear your case but will not review the case “de novo” or from the beginning. Rather, the ALJ will review the record from the BON hearing and will only overturn the BON's decision if the agency acted arbitrarily or capriciously or if the decision was an abuse of discretion.
The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact and CRNA Disciplinary Actions
One reason why it's so important to aggressively defend yourself in disciplinary actions before the New Mexico BON is the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (ENLC). Forty states in the U.S. are members of the ENLC, including New Mexico. The ENLC is an interstate agreement that allows registered nurses licensed in a compact state to practice in other participating states without going through the rigorous licensing process in each state.
However, disciplinary action against your CRNA, APRN, or RN license in New Mexico will be reported publicly and to the Nursys system. Nursys is an electronic database containing all investigative results, disciplinary actions, and sanctions against nurses in compact states. That's why you need the skilled Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm to defend you in any licensing investigation in New Mexico.
You Need the Experienced Professional License Defense Team
As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, or Registered Nurse in New Mexico, you've worked hard for your professional credentials and career. After years of education and advanced training, you shouldn't let anyone take your professional credentials without a fight. You need the experienced Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm to guide you through the process and vigorously defend your reputation and career. They've been helping nurses nationwide through investigations, hearings, and appeals for years, and they can help you, too. Give the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team a call today at 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.