Nursing is a challenging yet rewarding profession. You undoubtedly worked hard in nursing school to obtain your degree and then your license, and keep up with your continuing education (CE) requirements to ensure you can keep practicing in your chosen profession.
After working hard for so many years, the last thing you want is for your ability to practice professional nursing in West Virginia to be jeopardized. Unfortunately, disciplinary actions against nurses are common. The West Virginia Board of Registered Nurses (WVRNB) takes licensure and misconduct seriously. All it takes is one complaint against you to put your career as a nurse—everything you've worked for—at risk.
If you are facing a license investigation as a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in West Virginia, consider hiring a nurse license defense attorney. At Lento Law Firm, our team of attorneys can help you defend allegations of misconduct or violations of the rules and regulations for professional nursing.
We Help Nurses All Over West Virginia
Whether you are a recently graduated nurse or you've been practicing for many years, our team of license defense attorneys in West Virginia can help if your practice is in jeopardy. We help nurses at the following top hospitals in the state:
- West Virginia University Hospitals
- Beckley ARH Hospital
- Boone Memorial Hospital
- Charleston Area Medical Center
- St. Mary's Medical Center-Huntington
- Beckley VA Medical Center
- J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital
- Fairmont Regional Medical Center
- Mon General Hospital
- Logan Regional Medical Center
- Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital
- Pleasant Valley Hospital
- United Hospital Center
- Princeton Community Hospital
If you don't see your hospital or medical center listed above, our team can still assist you with defending your nursing license in West Virginia. Contact us to see how we can help.
Who Can Make Complaints About Nurses in West Virginia?
The WVRNB learns about potential misconduct involving registered nurses via a public complaint system. Anyone may go on the Board's website and fill out a complaint form if they have reason to believe the nurse violated the Nursing Practice Act or the Board's Rules and Regulations Relating to Nurse Education. As soon as someone files a complaint about you, you are notified and sent all the supporting documentation that goes along with the complaint.
What Is Considered Professional Behavior for Nurses in West Virginia?
The West Virginia Code Section 30-7-4 states what is considered professional misconduct for registered nurses in the state. Below are some examples of behavior that could result in disciplinary action from the Board:
- Failure to adhere to common and current standards for professional nursing practice
- Failure to adhere to established standards concerning patient care
- Knowingly committing an act that could adversely affect the physical or psychological welfare of a patient.
- Knowingly delegating professional responsibilities to someone who is not qualified for them.
- Practicing registered professional nursing while your license is suspended, lapsed, or inactive
- Failing to comply with terms and conditions set by the Board for previous disciplinary action
- Practicing professional nursing while effective practice is compromised by alcohol or drugs
- Addiction to a controlled substance
- Chronic or persistent alcoholism
- Dishonorable, unethical, or unprofessional conduct
- Providing incorrect information or failing to provide correct information concerning a suspended or lapsed license
- Knowingly falsifying an application for employment.
- Falsifying patient records
- Failing to report professional misconduct to the Board within 30 days
- Obstructing an investigation by the Board or failing to comply with an investigation
- Failing to register or notify the Board of changes of name or mailing address
- Failing to disclose to the Board a criminal conviction
- Misappropriating medications, supplies, and personal items of a patient or employer
- Using the nurse-patient relationship to exploit a patient
- Failing to maintain appropriate boundaries in the nurse-patient relationship
- Violating the confidentiality of a patient
- Committing professional misconduct in another state or territory
This list is by no means comprehensive; there are several other ways to commit professional misconduct as a registered nurse in West Virginia. Some infractions seem like obvious violations, such as adversely affecting the welfare of a patient or violating their confidentiality. Others are more vague or less obvious, like failing to report to the Board that your name has changed.
Regardless of how severe the alleged violation was, you can still get in trouble if it's believed that you committed professional misconduct as a nurse. When investigating complaints about registered nurses' conduct, the Board uses the preponderance of the evidence standard. They only need a 50 percent chance of likelihood that you committed the misconduct that you are accused of in order to take action.
If you are found responsible for one of the conduct violations above, you may be subject to disciplinary action under West Virginia law. The Board uses a disciplinary process to determine whether complaints against registered nurses are valid. You have the opportunity to participate in this process during a hearing. You can tell your side of the story and present evidence in your own favor. It helps to have a nurse license defense attorney present with you at the hearing and throughout the disciplinary procedure. An attorney can help you prepare for what you'll say at the hearing, gather evidence, speak to potential witnesses, and even negotiate with the Board for you.
Which Allegations Can Put a Nurse's License at Risk?
According to the West Virginia Code Section 30-7-1, the WVRNB can deny, revoke, or suspend a nursing license in West Virginia if it has proof that the holder of the license:
- Is or was guilty of fraud or deceit in procuring or attempting to procure a license to practice registered professional nursing
- Has been convicted of a felony
- Is unfit or incompetent due to negligence, habits, or other causes
- Is habitually intemperate or is addicted to the use of habit-forming drugs
- Is mentally incompetent
- Commits conduct against the morals of the profession of registered nursing
- Practices or attempts to practice registered professional nursing without a license or reregistration
- Has demonstrated abnormal prescribing or dispensing practices
If the Board receives a complaint with any of these allegations against you, it will most likely investigate.
Whether you are a nurse in Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, or elsewhere, it's essential that you understand the standards for professional behavior for nurses in West Virginia. If you are accused of unprofessional conduct, it will be easier for you to refute it if you know what the state actually considers unprofessional conduct. Having a nursing license defense attorney can also help you defend yourself and prevent the loss of your license.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Nurses in West Virginia
According to the West Virginia Code Section 30-7-4, the disciplinary process starts when the WVRNB receives a complaint about a registered nurse in the state. If you are the complainant, the Board will send you a notification of the complaint against you with the allegations and whether the Board is investigating (some complaints are beyond the Board's jurisdiction).
Once you receive notice of the complaint, you have 14 days to respond to the allegations.
The Board investigates each complaint it receives. Investigations may include:
- Subpoenaing witnesses and documents
- Deposing witnesses or taking sworn evidence
- Collecting other evidence
- Reviewing pertinent medical records of patients
- Hiring investigators, consultants, or other assistants in the investigation
After the investigation, the Board determines if more investigation is necessary, if disciplinary action is warranted, or if the case should be referred to the Disciplinary Review Committee.
If the Board decides to take disciplinary action against you, you're entitled to a hearing. If you don't show up for the hearing, the charges against you are automatically considered “true,” and the Board goes through with the disciplinary action—so it's incredibly important to show up for your hearing when your nursing license is on the line!
According to West Virginia Administrative Law 19-05, you are allowed to have a licensed attorney-at-law at your hearing. You must also request the hearing yourself, and the Board has to hold it within 45 days of your request. At the hearing, you can:
- Have witnesses appear and testify on your behalf
- Have representation by an attorney
- Present evidence in support of your position
- Cross-examine witnesses that are called by the Board
After the hearing, the Board makes a final decision about the disciplinary action.
Formal Consent Agreement
The Board can also resolve matters involving complaints about registered nurses through a formal consent agreement. This agreement allows you to agree to the disciplinary action voluntarily without having an evidentiary hearing.
While this option may seem easier and less time-consuming, it may also not be in your best interest. To enter a formal consent agreement essentially admits guilt. You don't get the opportunity to present evidence in your own favor, question witnesses, or present your argument to the Board.
Receiving a complaint against you as a registered nurse doesn't automatically result in disciplinary action. But if the Board does want to deny, suspend, revoke, or put your license on probation, you should take every opportunity you have to prove them wrong.
Penalties for Professional Misconduct by Registered Nurses in West Virginia
If you are found responsible for professional misconduct or otherwise violating the rules and regulations for registered nurses in West Virginia, you may have one of the following penalties:
- Denial of nursing license
- Suspension of nursing license
- Revocation of nursing license
- Probation of nursing license with conditions to be met for continued practice
- Assessment of renewal, reinstatement, or administrative costs or fines
If your disciplinary action involves paying fines and you fail to pay them within the specified time period, you may face further disciplinary action until the fines are paid in full.
Interstate Nurse Licensing Compact
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is an interstate agreement that permits registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs) to have one license for multiple states. The nurse first receives a regular license from their state of residence and then may apply for a compact license to practice nursing in other states. West Virginia is an NLC state, along with 35 other states, plus Guam.
How Does the NLC Work?
RNs who hold a multistate compact license and go to work in other states must abide by the nursing practice laws of the state where the patient is located. It's also possible to have their practice revoked in another state other than their home state if it's deemed necessary. The nurse's home state is ultimately responsible for discipline against the RN, however. The states that participate in the NLC must agree to share information via the national database, Nursys.
Nursys keeps track of licensure, discipline, and practice privileges for nurses in all states that participate in the NLC.
Does the Nurse Licensing Compact Cover APRNs?
No. There is a separate agreement for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) called the APRN Compact. It was only introduced in 2020 and has yet to be implemented yet. It can only take effect once seven states have enacted legislation to implement it.
Getting a Multistate License in West Virginia
Once you have your West Virginia nursing license, you can apply for a multistate license as long as you meet the requirements. You will have to submit fingerprints and do a background check, even if you already did so for your WV license. Your WV license must also be active and unencumbered. You also cannot have any state or federal felony convictions or any misdemeanor convictions related to the practice of nursing.
Multistate Licensing Can Be a Double-Edged Sword
While having the ability to practice nursing in other states besides West Virginia offers flexibility and mobility, it also means the discipline in one state can transfer to another. If West Virginia revokes your nursing license, you may not be able to practice in other states that participate in the NLC.
In order to prevent the loss of your nursing practice almost everywhere in the United States, you should take immediate action to defend yourself as soon as you know you are under scrutiny for disciplinary reasons regarding your nursing practice. Consult with an attorney for nursing license defense to see what your options are.
The Impaired Nurse Treatment Program
In West Virginia, registered nurses who are found to struggle with psychiatric problems, alcoholism, or drug addiction may have formal disciplinary action taken against their nursing license. However, the Board may abstain from this disciplinary action if the nurse is eligible for the Impaired Nurse Treatment Program (INTP). This program helps rehabilitate nurses, so they may return safely to effective nursing practice.
To be eligible for the INTP, you must meet the following criteria:
- Hold or eligible for licensure as a Registered Professional Nurse in West Virginia or be in the process of applying for licensure
- You willingly agree to admission to the program
- You haven't been terminated from the program previously
- You either have a drug or alcohol abuse problem or have psychiatric or psychological problems that affect your ability to practice nursing safely.
If the Board has proof that you struggle with alcohol or drug addiction or that you have psychiatric problems that impede your ability to practice professional nursing, you could lose your license. Participating in the INTP might be an option for you if you want to keep your license and continue being a registered nurse. Keep in mind, though, that this program may not be the best fit for everyone.
You should consult with a nursing license defense attorney if you're worried you might lose your ability to practice nursing in West Virginia. Our team of attorneys can go over your situation with you and discuss what the best options would be.
Can You Lose Your Nursing License in West Virginia for Not Meeting CE Requirements?
Yes, if you fail to meet the West Virginia RN Board's CE standards, they may have the authority to suspend your nursing license or make your status inactive until you can catch up. The Board can take action if you failed to do the CE hours, but it can also consider the hours you did do invalid. Every so often, the West Virginia RN Board will do a random sampling of the CE activities you participated in to verify if they are up to their CE standards.
According to the Board, CE activities must meet the following requirements:
- The activity is at least 50 minutes long.
- The CE program reflects the educational needs of the nurse so they can properly meet the health care needs of patients.
- The written objectives of the activity must be prepared and made available to participants.
- The content of the activity relates to program objectives and nursing or health care.
- The instructor's qualifications are provided in writing to the participants.
- A written schedule of the activity is provided to participants.
- Announcements related to the activity contain the WVRNB provider registration number or another indication that it is approved for CE credit.
- There is a written method to establish whether the participant has achieved the stated objectives of the activity.
- A certificate of completion of the activity is provided to participants.
If you feel your CE activities were valid and should count toward your license renewal, but the Board disagrees, you mail be able to enlist the help of a nursing license defense attorney. They can review all of the Board's written documentation and policies concerning CE and help you negotiate with the Board concerning your license.
Do You Need a West Virginia Nursing License Defense Attorney?
Getting accused of professional misconduct or other violations that jeopardize your nurse's license isn't like being charged with a crime. There is no “innocent until proven guilty” principle. The standard for proving you've done nothing wrong is higher because you are a medical professional. The WVRNB has an obligation to protect the public, which means they have a great deal of authority to discipline nurses or suspend their licenses if they believe there has been a violation of professionalism, ethics, or public trust.
Determining guilt or innocence is based on the preponderance of the evidence standard. They only have to be convinced that you're more than 50 percent likely to have committed the offense. With this evidence standard in place, you may be at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed against you.
Having a license defense counsel on your side can help you even the odds in the investigation. Your lawyer can conduct research on the complaint as well as comb through the Board's Rules and Regulations and reference relevant West Virginia law. An attorney can also help you draft a response to the complaint, which you can send to the Board to possibly have them dismiss the complaint without further investigation.
Not only can an attorney help you with the fine details of the process, but they can also stand up for your rights. You may be unfamiliar with how a nursing misconduct investigation proceeds and, therefore, not know what you have a right to. A nursing license defense attorney will know these rights and ensure that the Board does not trample on them.
If you are a nurse in West Virginia with a complaint against your license, you should not take the matter lightly. Take action right away to protect your career by hiring an attorney who works for your best interests. Contact Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation.