If you're a licensed certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) in Pennsylvania, you've spent years and thousands of hours on your education, training, and practice development. You've likely got an advanced degree and spent years building your reputation in the community. Unfortunately, an allegation of professional misconduct from a patient or colleague can jeopardize all that. But you shouldn't try to handle it alone. You need the LLF Law Firm's experienced Professional License Defense Team to protect your rights and your license. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule a consultation right away.
Licensing for CRNAs in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the State Board of Nursing (BON) handles the evaluation of licensing applications for RNs and CRNAs, issues and renews licenses, authorizes state licensing exams, and takes disciplinary action for professional misconduct. To become a CRNA in the state, you must
CRNA Licensing in Pennsylvania
To become a licensed CRNA in Pennsylvania, you must:
- Be a licensed registered nurse,
- Have at least one year of clinical ICU experience,
- Complete an accredited nurse anesthesia program with a master's degree, doctorate, or post-master's certificate,
- Complete 2,500 clinical hours,
- Obtain “national certification as a certified registered nurse anesthetist from a board-recognized national certification organization which required passing of a national certifying examination in nurse anesthesia.”
There are 14 accredited CRNA programs in Pennsylvania, including:
- Duquesne University
- University of Scranton
- Cedar Crest College
- Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Villanova University
- Drexel University
- Excela Health School, Saint Vincent College
- Montgomery Hospital, La Salle University
- Geisinger Health System, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
- LaRoche University
- Thomas Jefferson University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Pittsburgh
- Gannon University
- York College of Pennsylvania
RN Licensing in Pennsylvania
To become a licensed registered nurse in Pennsylvania, you must:
- Complete an approved nursing program with either an associate's or bachelor's degree or a diploma nursing program,
- Complete the licensing exam, either the National Council of State Boards - Registered Nursing Exam (NCLEX-RN) or the State Board Test Pool Exam (SBTPE),
- Pay the initial licensing fee and each annual renewal fee,
- Complete the state application for licensing,
- Meet the annual continuing education requirements,
- Pass a criminal background check.
Pennsylvania also has “moral character” requirements to obtain or renew a nursing license for RNs and CRNAs. Like many states, Pennsylvania looks to the American Nursing Association's Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice for standards of professionalism, good character, and ethics in nurses.
Professional Standards for CRNAs in Pennsylvania
State law and the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing hold CRNAs to high standards of professional conduct. You can face a disciplinary investigation for professional misconduct, criminal charges, or failure to report an arrest or conviction.
Some of the most common issues that can result in a professional misconduct complaint, investigation, or hearing for a CRNA in Pennsylvania include:
- Repeated incompetence or negligence while practicing nursing,
- A mental or physical illness or condition that prevents you from practicing with “reasonable skill and safety,”
- Dependence on alcohol or drugs is impairing your judgment or coordination, rendering you unable to practice with “reasonable skill and safety,”
- Willfully or repeatedly violating a Board regulation or professional nursing standard,
- Committing fraud or deceit in the practice of nursing or an application for admission,
- Receiving a conviction or probation for a crime of “moral turpitude,”
- Another state has suspended or revoked your license,
- Presenting an “immediate and clear danger” to public health or safety,
- Using, possessing, or distributing a controlled substance without a medical purpose, and
- Immoral or unprofessional conduct.
Criminal Charges and Discipline
In some cases, you can also face disciplinary action for failure to report a criminal conviction. When you're renewing your license in Pennsylvania, or when you first request a license, you must answer questions about your criminal background, and you have an ongoing obligation to report these to the state BON. You must report:
- Any pending criminal charges,
- A guilty plea,
- A non contendere or no contest plea,
- Any admission into a diversionary program that includes probation instead of a guilty plea.
You'll have 30 days to notify the BON in Pennsylvania:
(a) A registered nurse shall notify the Board of pending criminal charges within 30 days of the filing of the criminal charges or on the biennial renewal application under § 21.29(c)(4) (relating to expiration and renewal of license), whichever is sooner.
(b) A registered nurse shall notify the Board of a criminal conviction, plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or an admission into a probation without verdict or accelerated rehabilitative disposition program within 30 days of the disposition or on the biennial renewal application under § 21.29(c)(4), whichever is sooner.
Under the law, you must also disclose any disciplinary action by another state licensing board. A nurse must:
Disclose any discipline imposed by a state licensing board on any nursing or allied health profession license or certificate in the previous biennial period and any criminal charges pending or criminal conviction, plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or admission into a probation without verdict or accelerated rehabilitative disposition during the previous biennial period unless prior notification has been made under § 21.29a (relating to reporting of crimes and disciplinary action)
So, if you're licensed and disciplined in another state, you must also report that to Pennsylvania's BON.
Limitations on Pennsylvania's Good Character Provisions
When applying for or renewing a CRNA license in Pennsylvania, nurses face a great deal of scrutiny over past mistakes. In some cases, nurses could face a ban from renewing their licenses for up to ten years because of a criminal record. As a result, Governor Wolfe signed a new expansive regulation of Pennsylvania's licensing process in July 2020. The law now prevents the BON from considering criminal records in the licensing process unless they are “directly related” to the nursing profession.
The BON will now conduct a two-part test when considering a CRNA's past criminal history:
- The BON will review the criminal convictions that can still prevent licensing as a CRNA or RN,
- The BON conducts an “individualized assessment” to make the licensing decision.
The serious and violent crimes that can affect your CRNA license include:
- Sexual assault,
- Crimes involving minor children, and
- Invasion of privacy, among others.
The crimes considered “directly related” to nursing include crimes such as:
- Writing bad checks,
- Criminal mischief,
- Cruelty to animals, and
- Drug offenses.
The Disciplinary Process for CRNAs in Pennsylvania
The disciplinary process begins with a complaint made to the Professional Compliance Office or the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Administration of the Pennsylvania Department of State. The BPOA provides administrative support to the State Board of Nursing concerning complaints and disciplinary actions. When the Department of State receives a complaint, it will first determine whether the office has jurisdiction over the matter. They cannot intervene in financial disputes between patients and CRNAs, only with allegations that a nurse has violated their professional responsibilities or exceeded the scope of their practice.
Investigating CRNA Disciplinary Allegations in Pennsylvania
Next, a legal assistant in the department will confer with an attorney from the department's legal office to determine whether to proceed with an investigation. If the department decides to proceed, they will forward the complaint to the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation for the BON. An investigator will then obtain additional information about the complaint, including contacting the Complainant, speaking to witnesses, and gathering evidence. They may also contact you as the subject of the complaint.
The investigator will close the complaint if there isn't enough evidence of wrongdoing. If the department determines that there is enough evidence to proceed with a disciplinary action, the prosecuting attorney will notify the Complainant and prepare an Order to Show Cause, which initiates formal charges against you. The order will set out the charges and allegations against you and direct you to respond to the complaint within 30 days.
Many CRNAs think that an investigation isn't a big deal. They feel they can easily clear up any misunderstanding and leave it behind. But it's important to remember that the BON may later use anything you say or write to an investigator against you in an administrative hearing or an appeal. Similarly, it's also important to understand the consequences of ignoring an Order to Show Cause or failing to cooperate; the BON can obtain a default judgment against you and suspend or revoke your license. That's why you need the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm to represent you immediately.
CRNA Disciplinary Hearings in Pennsylvania
After receiving your answer to the complaint, the agency will set the matter for an administrative hearing. At the hearing, the BON may present witnesses and evidence gathered during the investigation. You and your attorney may also subpoena and examine witnesses, cross-examine the prosecutor's witnesses, and introduce evidence in your defense. The panel will issue a decision in a Final Adjudication and Order, typically within six months after closing the evidentiary record.
Penalties for CRNA Misconduct in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's Professional Nursing Law allows the State Board of Nursing to “refuse, suspend, or revoke” your CRNA or RN license for professional misconduct. If the Board does revoke your license, you must physically surrender the license, or you can face a third-degree misdemeanor.
After a finding of professional misconduct, you may also face less onerous punishments, including:
- Restrictions on your license to practice,
- A reprimand,
- A period of supervised practice,
- Professional education,
- Alcohol or substance abuse treatment,
- Psychological counseling, or
The BON can also revoke your probation if you fail to follow their conditions or restrictions on your ability to practice.
Appealing a Pennsylvania CRNA License Disciplinary Action
If you disagree with the Adjudication and Final Order from your administrative hearing, you can challenge it in Commonwealth Court. Your appeal from the Board won't typically be “de novo,” or from the beginning of the case. Rather, in your appeal, you must show that there was a problem in the administrative hearing below, such as:
- A violation of your rights,
- An error of law,
- A procedural error, or
- Findings without “substantial evidence” in the record.
You must file an appeal within 30 days of the final Board order.
As long as there is a full record of the proceedings before the Board, the court will hear your appeal without a jury by examining the record certified by the agency. If the record from the Board isn't complete, the court may decide to hear your appeal de novo, or it may remand the case to the Board to make a full record. The court can also remand the matter to the Board “for further disposition in accordance with the order of the court.”
Contact the LLF Law Firm's Skilled License Defense Team
If you're facing a professional complaint in Pennsylvania as a CRNA, a disciplinary investigation and hearing can seriously affect your career. A finding of responsibility in a disciplinary matter could end with a license suspension or revocation, ending your ability to practice as a CRNA. Even if the punishment isn't quite so onerous, a public reprimand could hurt your professional and personal reputations.
It's important to remember that you don't have to try to navigate these waters alone. You are entitled to representation in an administrative hearing before the BON and an investigation. You need the LLF Law Firm's skilled Professional License Defense Team to protect your rights from the beginning, negotiating with the BON on your behalf and representing you in any disciplinary hearings or appeals. Our Team has been helping CRNAs and RNs nationwide for years. Find out what we can do for you too. Call the Team at 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.