Facing a license complaint as a nurse in Pennsylvania is unnerving. You rightly sense that your job and career could be on the line. Pennsylvania, though, has specific laws, rules, and procedures for nursing license proceedings. You need not despair. Indeed, you should take the professional's attitude that with the right knowledge and help, you can make the best of a difficult situation. Fortunately, skilled and experienced attorney help is available to you in Pennsylvania. Professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can aggressively and effectively represent you in Pennsylvania on nursing license disciplinary charges. Attorney Lento wants you to have the best information and representation to preserve your Pennsylvania nursing license and career.
Pennsylvania Joins Nursing License Compact
The good standing of your Pennsylvania nursing license is especially important to you, whether you plan to continue nursing practice in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. Pennsylvania has just taken the first step to join the Nurse Licensure Compact. On July 1, 2021, Pennsylvania's governor signed Senate Bill 115 into law to begin the process of adding Pennsylvania to the Nurse Licensure Compact. The Compact enables nurses licensed in one Compact jurisdiction to practice in other jurisdictions that are also Compact members without having to get another nursing license. Thirty-eight jurisdictions are currently Compact members, including Florida, Texas, Virginia, and other populous states. New Jersey is currently implementing Compact requirements, while Compact legislation is pending in California. As soon as Pennsylvania completes Compact requirements, your Pennsylvania nursing license will allow you to practice nursing in thirty-eight other jurisdictions. Keep your Pennsylvania nursing license in good standing. It's worth it for nursing practice in other jurisdictions.
Reporting of Pennsylvania Nursing Discipline
The good standing of your Pennsylvania nursing license is also important because of the national reporting system for nurse discipline. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing keeps a national licensing database Nursys.com. All Nurse Licensure Compact members report nursing discipline into the Nursys.com database. Licensing boards and employers of nurses use the Nursys.com database to confirm the good standing of nurses who apply for a license, license renewal, or employment. License discipline in Pennsylvania will affect your ability to gain or maintain a nursing license in other states or to practice nursing under your Pennsylvania license in other states that are Compact members. Your interest in keeping your Pennsylvania nursing license is greater than ever, whether you plan to continue nursing practice in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.
Pennsylvania Board of Nursing
If you face nursing discipline charges, you should know what agency is pursuing the charges and what interests the agency represents. Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law provides for a State Board of Nursing to regulate nursing practice. The Nursing Law's Section 2.1 provides that the Board have nine nurse members (six registered professional nurses, two licensed practical nurses, and one nurse dietician) and three public representatives. The Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs also serves on the Board. The mission of Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing is expressly to “protect the health and safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the licensure/certification and regulation of the practice of professional and practical nursing... by registered nurses, practical nurses, certified registered nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, dietitian-nutritionists, and graduate nurses.” If you face nursing discipline charges, keep in mind that the Board pursuing those charges has public protection in mind. You'll need to show the Board that your nursing practice is no threat to public health or safety.
Pennsylvania Board of Nursing Powers
Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing has the power to protect the public. Section 13 of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the State Board of Nursing to punish violations of its rules and regulations with a misdemeanor conviction. That misdemeanor conviction can carry penalties of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail, the fine increases to $2,000 for subsequent violations. The same Section 13 also authorizes civil penalties of $1,000 for Board rule or regulatory violations. Section 13 expressly includes nursing practice without a valid and current license among those violations that can result in misdemeanor conviction or civil penalty. Don't trifle with Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing. It has the power to punish persons whom it finds have not met its standards, rules, and regulations. Respect the State Board of Nursing's authority.
Pennsylvania Nurse Licensure
Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing is the state agency that gives and takes away nursing licenses. The Board issues licenses, approves nursing education programs, establishes practice standards, and disciplines license holders who violate the Board's standards or regulations. You got your Pennsylvania nursing license from the State Board of Nursing. And the Board can take your license away to protect the public. Your license is critical to your nursing practice in Pennsylvania because Section 3 of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law prohibits anyone from using the title nurse or engaging in nursing practice in Pennsylvania without a valid and current license. The Professional Nursing Law's Section 4 further defines what someone can do or must not do without a nursing license. To have a nursing career in Pennsylvania, you must generally meet the State Board of Nursing's standards and have a valid and current Pennsylvania nursing license. Your license is very important to you if you intend to practice nursing.
Nursing Discipline in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing has the power to impose discipline on a Pennsylvania nurse who commits professional misconduct. Section 14(a) of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the State Board of Nursing to “refuse, suspend, or revoke” a nursing license when the Board finds professional misconduct. You must meet the State Board of Nursing's standards for the practice of nursing, or the Board may discipline you. And discipline is serious business. Section 15.3 of the Professional Nursing Law provides that if the Board suspends or revokes a nurse's license, the nurse must surrender the license or face third-degree misdemeanor charges. If you face nursing discipline charges in Pennsylvania, don't proceed alone. You need skilled and experienced attorney representation. Professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is available to represent you in Pennsylvania. Attorney Lento has helped countless professionals nationwide preserve their professional license to continue fruitful practice.
Alternative Forms of Discipline in Pennsylvania
Suspension or revocation of the nursing license isn't the only available discipline in Pennsylvania. Section 14(b) of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the Board to impose additional or alternative discipline beyond suspending or revoking the nursing license. Additional forms of discipline may sound harsh, as if suspension or revocation of the nursing license wasn't punishment enough. But alternative forms of discipline can instead be the compromise that a struggling nurse needs to regain confidence in the ability to meet all nursing standards. Alternative discipline could be the route to recovery from the blow of discipline charges. Section 14(b)'s alternative forms of discipline may include:
- public reprimand
- license limitation or other restriction
- requiring physician or psychologist care, counseling, or treatment
- probation revocation for noncompliance
Nursing Discipline Outside of Pennsylvania
If you hold nursing licenses in more than one state, then you should know that nursing discipline in another state may lead to license suspension or revocation, or other discipline, in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing will find out if a nurse licensed in Pennsylvania and another state has suffered discipline in the other state. Section 11.1 of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law requires a nurse holding licensure in other states, and whom another state disciplines, to report that discipline when renewing a Pennsylvania nursing license or within ninety days of the discipline, whichever is sooner. Running from discipline, or trying to hide discipline in another state, doesn't work. Better to address or fight the charges when they happen than to ignore charges or run from them. Retain
Grounds for Nurse Discipline in Pennsylvania
Section 14(a) of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the State Board of Nursing to impose discipline on specified grounds. The grounds for discipline are important. The grounds specify what nurses must do and must not do to avoid discipline. The grounds also represent the common causes for discipline. The Board prohibits actions that the Board sees nurses take that harm patients or the public in some way. These grounds are, in other words, what nurses do but shouldn't do. Pay attention to the grounds for discipline. They are also what the Board must prove before disciplining you. Section 14(a) of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law provides that the Board may suspend or revoke a nursing license when the Board finds that the license holder:
- was on repeated occasions negligent or incompetent in practicing nursing
- is unable to practice nursing with reasonable skill and safety because of mental or physical illness or condition
- is unable to practice nursing with reasonable skill and safety because of dependence on alcohol or drugs tending to impair judgment or coordination
- has willfully or repeatedly violated any nursing standard or Board regulation
- has committed fraud or deceit in nursing or admission to practice
- has been convicted of or received probation for a crime of moral turpitude
- has suffered license suspension or revocation in another state
- has presented an immediate and clear danger to public health or safety
- possessed, used, acquired, or distributed a controlled substance for other than an acceptable medical purpose
- has been guilty of immoral or unprofessional conduct
Order for Examination
Some discipline cases present significant questions as to whether the nurse facing the discipline charge has the substance-abuse habit and impaired condition that the charges allege. In those cases, Section 14(a) of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the State Board of Nursing to compel the nurse to submit to a mental or physical examination. The State Board must first give the nurse a hearing on the charge and alleged need for examination. But once the Board orders examination, Section 14(a) expressly authorizes the Board to treat the nurse's unexcused failure to appear for examination as if the nurse had the addiction problem that the charge alleges. The discipline isn't necessarily permanent. Section 14(a) requires the Board to permit the nurse to show regained competence at reasonable intervals.
Pennsylvania's Alternative Treatment Option
In enacting nurse licensing and discipline laws, the Pennsylvania legislature appreciated the enormous role that substance abuse plays in impairing the judgment of nurses, affecting their nursing practice. The legislature also appreciated that nurses can, with proper treatment, recover from the addictions that cause abuse and impaired nursing practice. Section 14.1 of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the State Board of Nursing to establish an Impaired Professionals Program. Exercising that authority, the State Board recognizes Pennsylvania's Professional Health Monitoring Program (PHMP) and, specifically, the PHMP's Voluntary Recovery Program (VRP) as a nurse's alternative to license discipline. Nurses who qualify for, enter, and complete the Voluntary Recovery Program may be able to avoid discipline. Section 14.1 authorizes the Board to defer discipline for nurses who complete an authorized recovery program.
Pennsylvania's Nurse Peer Assistance Program
Pennsylvania's Voluntary Recovery Program is available not just to nurses but also to members of other professions. Yet when a nurse accesses the Voluntary Recovery Program, the Program turns to Pennsylvania's nonprofit Nurse Peer Assistance Program (PNAP) to provide assistance services. If you qualify for the Voluntary Recovery Program as an alternative to discipline, you will have the help of professionals who regularly deal with nurses and nursing issues. The Nurse Peer Assistance Program coordinates services with the state's Voluntary Recovery Program and Professional Health Monitoring Unit to ensure treatment, support, and compliance of a nurse who is trying to recover from addiction while avoiding license discipline.
Consent Agreement Terms and Conditions
Pennsylvania's alternative recovery program can be the solution for nurses having addiction issues affecting their nursing practice. But the alternative recovery program is not for everyone. To enter the program, a nurse must enter a consent agreement with the State Board of Nursing lasting no less than three years. The consent agreement dictates what the nurse must do to defer and avoid discipline. Those requirements can include the nurse's appearances for counseling, monitoring, drug testing, and other events at substantial cost and requiring substantial time and travel. Don't agree on your own to a consent agreement imposing onerous or unnecessary terms and conditions. Instead, retain and consult a skilled and experienced professional license defense attorney to help you evaluate your best option to avoid discipline and succeed in your nursing practice. Professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is available in Pennsylvania to help you evaluate your best option for preserving your nursing license and continuing a successful nursing career.
Investigation Authority of Pennsylvania's Board of Nursing
Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing takes complaints from patients, patients' family members, employers of nurses, and nursing colleagues. The Board can also monitor press reports, social media, and other sources for allegations of nursing misconduct. Once a complaint or concern comes to light, Pennsylvania's State Board of Nursing also has the power to investigate nurse professional misconduct. Section 15.5 of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes the Board, through its enforcement attorney, to issue subpoenas to investigate violations. A subpoena can compel a witness to testify or produce records or other items within the witness's control. Section 15.5 also authorizes the Board to examine witnesses under oath to discover and confirm facts relating to the investigation.
Responding to an Investigation
If you learn of an investigation concerning your nursing conduct, then don't wait for the Board to issue charges or to contact you for information or answers. Retain professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you navigate and respond to the investigation. You have a duty to cooperate with the Board. But cooperation doesn't mean leaving everything to the Board. You can and should actively participate in your discipline case in ways that help you achieve the best outcome. Your retained attorney can help you identify, gather, and organize evidence exonerating you from the charge or mitigating any offenses. Your attorney can also help you provide truthful, accurate, and complete information in response to the Board's investigation requests and when answering the Board's disciplinary charges. Experienced professional license defense attorneys have the skills to help you navigate the Board's administrative procedures. Don't go it alone. Retain attorney Lento to help you achieve the best outcome.
Pennsylvania's Board of Nursing Discipline Procedures
If you face nursing disciplinary charges in Pennsylvania, then with the help of your retained professional license defense attorney, you can invoke procedural protections to ensure a fair hearing on those charges. Section 15 of Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law authorizes license suspensions and revocations only in accord with State Board of Nursing regulations, by majority Board vote, after a “full and fair hearing before the Board.” Section 15 authorizes discipline only when the Board complies with the notice, hearing, and other requirements of Pennsylvania's Administrative Procedure Act. Those requirements include the following significant protections:
- Section 502 guarantees a right of representation before the Board. You may, in other words, retain a skilled and experienced professional license defense attorney to advocate throughout your nursing license proceeding. Your nursing license warrants representation. You have too much at stake to do otherwise.
- Section 504 requires the Board of Nursing to give the nurse charged with discipline reasonable notice of the charges. You should know in advance of a discipline hearing the facts that the Board believes show misconduct and the grounds the Board alleges for discipline.
- Section 504 also requires the Board to provide the nurse charged with discipline with a hearing at which the nurse may testify and present other witnesses and evidence in defense or mitigation of the charges. The Board must also stenographically record a full and complete record of the hearing.
- Section 505 permits the Board to relax evidence rules to admit all relevant evidence. But the same section requires the Board to permit the nurse's retained attorney to cross-examine the Board's witnesses.
- Section 506 requires the Board to allow the nurse through the nurse's retained attorney to submit legal briefs on the issues. The same section also permits the Board to accept the attorney's oral argument of those issues.
- Section 507 requires the Board to make all decisions in writing. The writing must include findings of fact and the reasons for the decision. The Board must serve the decision on the nurse or the nurse's retained attorney.
- Section 702 permits a nurse whom the Board disciplines to appeal the discipline to a Pennsylvania court for judicial review. Under Section 754, the appeal must show a violation of rights, an error of law or procedure, or a finding without substantial supporting evidence in the record.
Examples of Pennsylvania Nurse Discipline
Pennsylvania publishes the results of nurse discipline cases. Those results show some of the common situations in which nurses find themselves, leading to discipline. The most recent of those nursing discipline cases show these examples of Pennsylvania nurse discipline:
- license revoked for five felony convictions
- license revoked for felony conviction on a crime of moral turpitude
- license suspended indefinitely for inability to practice competently
- license suspended for inability to practice competently and for violating a Board order
- license suspended for failure to pay the Board's prior civil penalty
- license suspended for three years for violating terms of a prior Board order
- license suspended for five years for a misdemeanor drug conviction
- license revoked for a guilty plea to a felony of moral turpitude
- license suspended for conviction under the Controlled Substances Act
- license reprimand for discipline in another state
- license suspended indefinitely for discipline in another state
- license probation for a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude
Nursing License Defense Attorney Available in Pennsylvania
Your best move is to retain a premier professional license defense attorney who has skill and experience navigating administrative procedures. Professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania to represent you in your nursing license discipline case. He has successfully represented countless professionals nationwide in license proceedings, including nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Trust a skilled and experienced professional license defense attorney to help you navigate Pennsylvania's administrative rules and procedures. Call 888.535.3686 now or use the online service to retain Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm for your nursing license defense in Pennsylvania.