As a professional agency nurse in Mississippi, facing termination from your agency or, even worse, a possible disciplinary hearing before the Mississippi Board of Nursing can feel like the end of your world. While disciplinary investigations should be taken seriously, this does not mean that you must accept defeat. Help is available at the agency and state levels to ensure your story is told.
Regardless of whether you have just lost an agency contract, are being investigated by the Mississippi Board of Nursing, or have already been issued disciplinary consequences, the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is available to discuss your next steps. We understand the nuances of Mississippi Nursing Board proceedings and nursing agency investigations. Contact a member of our Team today by calling us at 888-535-3686 or by using our online contact form.
Mississippi Agency Nurses
Mississippi agency nurses typically operate as independent contractors under nursing agencies that contract with hospitals and medical facilities to fill short-term staffing vacancies during staffing shortages or crises. Because agency nurses have the option to accept or decline assignments, the career can attract many professionals who appreciate the autonomy and flexibility. However, a career as an agency nurse is not without its challenges. Working as an independent contractor comes with many concerns about job security, fluctuating income, and the loss of supervisorial support and friendships with colleagues.
The Benefits of Being an Agency Nurse
Choosing a career as an agency nurse can come with considerable benefits, especially for professionals who value their autonomy and leading a flexible lifestyle. This flexibility makes agency nursing a particularly appealing option for professionals with other familial or professional obligations that require their time and attention.
While other professionals may find it challenging to develop professionally without direct supervision and structured guidance, agency nurses may thrive knowing their career path has not been laid out. Agency nurses can also avoid the monotony of shift life and are not bound to work the same shift with the same coworkers in the same department. Instead, agency nurses can often choose among various appealing contracts, enjoying the benefits of a varied and dynamic skillset.
Though agency nursing may be marked by a degree of financial unpredictability, this is counterbalanced by the fact that agency nurses are often paid at a higher hourly rate than their non-agency peers. This higher compensation considers their varied skillsets, extensive clinical setting, and utility in filling staffing vacancies during times of need. It should also be mentioned, however, that while agency nurses often enjoy a more competitive rate, they should be eager to contribute to their retirement accounts, pay for their professional malpractice insurance, and arrange their health insurance benefits, as these are often not perks offered by their employer agency.
What Skillsets Help Agency Nurses Thrive?
Adaptability and Critical Thinking
Agency nurses are mainly set apart from their non-agency colleagues due to their responsibility, desire for continuous learning, and ability to integrate into new assignments quickly due to their adaptability. Without their ability to remain adaptable, it would be difficult for them to join hospital teams in a supportive role. This is especially important because agency nurses will often not receive as much, if any, formal training from the facilities they contract with.
In addition to being adaptable to a new environment, agency nurses must also be able to think on their feet. Critical thinking skills are necessary for agencies since they often must make rapid, informed decisions independently, particularly in evaluating patient needs and deciding the best course of action.
Equally crucial for backing existing teams, agency nurses must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to communicate concerns or questions in an articulate manner, and they must also be able to understand instructions without additional support. Because agency nurses most often join existing teams, they must be able to communicate with a wide variety of personality types without the benefit of having the time to “learn” someone's personality or communication type.
On top of all the stressors non-agency nurses face, agency nurses face the challenges of unfamiliar environments, unknown colleagues, and demanding schedules. While other nurses may be able to have “off days” at work and receive support from colleagues or supervisors, agency nurses risk receiving more employment contracts if they fail to remain composed under pressure. While adaptability and proper communication skills can help agency nurses remain calm, a solid foundation in nursing skills will enable them to lean on their knowledge and experience when things get challenging.
Lastly, agency nurses must be reliable and organized. As independent contractors, they cannot rely on the safety net of supervisors or colleagues to cover performance issues. They must remain self-motivated and reliable without supervision or support, especially as they often manage varied work schedules across multiple locations. Unlike salaried nurses who may receive employer-provided continuing education updates or financial planning and benefits assistance, agency nurses must independently meet their continuing educational units and learn how to organize their financial goals themselves.
Laws Governing Mississippi Nurses
Mississippi Nursing Practice Act
At a minimum, agency nurses must complete all nursing license prerequisites and continue to meet professional standards under the Mississippi Nurse Practice Act. Section 15-53-33 of the Act outlines the various offenses and penalties related to disciplinary investigations. (discussed more below). In professional, moral, or ethical misconduct cases, §75-15-29 of the Act grants the Mississippi Board of Nursing the authority to deny, revoke, or suspend licenses after disciplinary investigations and applicable procedures.
Mississippi Board of Nursing Administrative Code
Title 30, Part 2801 of the Mississippi Board of Nursing Administrative Code delegates supervisorial authority to the Mississippi Board of Nursing, granting the Board the responsibility for the quality of nursing care provided and ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of residents in the state. Sections 2820 and 2825 of the Code outline the procedures the Board must follow when carrying out disciplinary investigations, hearings, and consequences.
Mississippi Open Meetings Act
The Mississippi Open Meetings Act ensures that all meetings of public bodies in the state, both at the state and local levels, are open to the public.
For agency nurses in Mississippi facing disciplinary investigations from the Board of Nursing, this means that any hearings or discussions regarding disciplinary actions against nurses are subject to public scrutiny. And while open meetings can help ensure transparency and accountability, they also come at the cost of gossip, damaging professional reputations, and misunderstandings.
It's important to note that some sessions under the act, known as “executive sessions,” are closed to the public if the board votes to categorize them as such. Executive Sessions may help protect conversations regarding a nurse's job performance, character, or professional competence.
Mississippi Nurse License Compact
Mississippi is a member of the Multistate Nurse Licensure Compact, an interstate nursing act that allows for mutual recognition of nursing licenses among its member states. Under the Compact, nurses with an active nursing license in one of the Compact states can legally practice in any other Compact state, including agency nurses. Nurses must comply with the Nursing Practice Law of the state where they practice and continue to meet the practice requirements of their primary residence state. Facing misconduct allegations while working in another Compact state can still affect your ability to retain your Mississippi nursing license.
What Misconduct Allegations Can Threaten My Agency Nursing Career?
Agency nurses are bound by the same ethical, moral, and professional responsibilities contained within the Mississippi Nursing Practice Act as non-agency colleagues. Section 15-53-33 of the Act addresses the various types of ethical, honest, and professional misconduct allegations that can trigger disciplinary investigations, some of which are summarized below.
- The sale, fraudulent acquisition, or provision of nursing diplomas, licenses, renewals, or records, including aiding or abetting in such activities.
- Practicing nursing under the guise of a diploma, license, or record obtained illegally, fraudulently, or through false representation.
- Practicing or offering to practice nursing without proper licensing or authorization under the relevant legal provisions.
- Using titles or designations implying one is a registered or licensed nurse, or any nurse, without the appropriate licensing or authorization. However, certified nurse assistants may use "nurse" or "nursing" in their job title.
- Practicing as a registered or licensed nurse while one's license or practicing privileges are suspended or revoked.
- Operating a nursing education program for registered or licensed practical nurses without the required accreditation from the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning or the Department of Education, respectively.
- Knowingly employing unlicensed individuals to practice as registered or licensed practical nurses.
- Aiding or abetting any violation of these provisions.
Additional types of misconduct that can trigger disciplinary investigations include criminal activity, inappropriate relationships with patients, including sexual misconduct, negligent patient care, errors on patient records, treatment or administration of medication, failure to supervise junior nurses properly, discrimination, creating an unsafe environment for colleagues or patients, and working under the influence of illicit substances, certain prescription medications, and alcohol.
The Importance of Early Legal Representation for Misconduct Allegations
Due to the nature of their independent contract employment, agency nurses may unexpectedly encounter abrupt terminations without official warnings or HR conversations that would happen in a traditional salaried position. Under this employment framework, things can quickly escalate from a terminated contract at a hospital to being let go from an agency to an official investigation by the Mississippi Board of Nursing. While mistakes or misunderstandings are sometimes brought to light in mandated human resources or union meetings for salaried nurses, they can continue to plague into misconduct allegations for agency nurses.
If you have been terminated from a contract and sense that misconduct allegations are brewing, getting early assistance from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can help. Misconduct allegations at the agency level can frequently stem from misunderstandings or errors, and early legal intervention can help minimize the escalation process. Timely legal representation also plays a crucial role in protecting your professional reputation, sometimes allowing nurses to engage in continued contract opportunities with an agency during an investigation. While every nurse's circumstances will vary, early representation can ease your mind, knowing that support is on your side and you only have to focus on work.
The Disciplinary Process for Agency Nurses in Mississippi
Each disciplinary proceeding must ensure that the agency nurse receives due process. Due Process is a right granted under the United States and Mississippi State Constitutions that affords you the right to be notified about the allegations against you and present your side of the story before a neutral third party before any concrete adverse disciplinary actions are taken against you. To ensure that you receive due process, the disciplinary process in Mississippi will typically occur in the following phases.
The Complaint Phase
A disciplinary investigation is launched when someone reports alleged misconduct to the Board of Nursing. Complainants can remain anonymous and range from members of the public to colleagues, employers, patients, and even family members. Complaints can be made by calling the Board of Nursing, submitting written allegations, or filing one online through the Board of Nursing's website.
While the Board indicates that every instance of alleged serious misconduct will be thoroughly investigated, they do not explore the following types of allegations:
- Rudeness to peers, co-worker disputes, or personality conflicts.
- Absenteeism or tardiness.
- Labor-management disputes such as work schedules/wages/wrongful termination and resignation without notice.
Investigation and Affidavit Phase
After receiving a complaint, the Board will also launch an investigation to determine whether sufficient evidence supports a claim that the nurse has committed violations under the Mississippi Nurse Practice Act. Investigators can use various tools while gathering evidence, such as visiting the hospital or medical facility, reviewing patient records and other documentation, interviewing witnesses, etc. The Board can also use its Subpoena Power to subpoena individuals or the production of documents.
If the investigator concludes sufficient data, the Board of Nursing proceeds by filing an affidavit against the nurse and setting a hearing date. While the accused nurse should be notified at least 15 days before the hearing, they can request an extension to allow them time to settle the claims, retain counsel, gather evidence, etc.
Alternatively, the Board may feel that while the allegations are serious, they do not rise to the level of misconduct under the Nursing Practice Act. If this is the case, the Board can pursue a non-disciplinary resolution in the form of a Letter of Concern, Administrative Affidavit, or participation in the Mississippi Alternative Program, a “confidential and non-disciplinary nurses . . . designed to promote early identification of substance abuse. . . and removal from the nursing practice.”
While most nurses will be allowed to continue practicing while the investigation and disciplinary matter is pending, licenses can be temporarily revoked if the Board of Nursing determines that the nurse poses an imminent danger to the public.
The Resolution or Settlement Agreement Phase
If a formal complaint is filed, it can be "resolved" through a voluntary settlement agreement that is signed prior to the hearing. As part of the settlement agreement, the nurse is typically required to agree to specific disciplinary actions. These may include license suspension, the completion of mandatory education units, or the payment of fines. Sometimes, a settlement opportunity may be wiser if the chances of succeeding at a hearing are unpredictable. In other words, the known disciplinary consequences of a settlement agreement may far outweigh the unknown and potentially harsher consequences issued by a hearing officer.
All settlement agreements must be approved by the Board of Nursing. If the parties can successfully reach a settlement agreement, they will be assigned a worker in the Board's Compliance Division who will monitor them closely to ensure they fulfill the terms of the settlement agreement. Failure to meet settlement terms may result in a new disciplinary matter.
Should a settlement not be reached, the matter may escalate to a formal hearing before a three-member panel. These hearings resemble a small trial, allowing both parties the opportunity to present evidence, testimonies, witnesses, and legal arguments. Given the complexity of these proceedings, self-representation can be an extremely large risk to take.
If the panel determines that there is sufficient evidence to issue a disciplinary consequence, they can give the following:
- Formal Reprimand
- Monetary fines
- Referral to an alternative disciplinary program
- Educational courses
- Drug or psychological evaluations
- Restriction on the license or privilege to practice
- Additional penalties or requirements imposed by the Board.
The Appeal Phase
Nurses have the right to appeal panel decisions to the full Board within 30 days and may further appeal to the chancery court and the Supreme Court of Mississippi. If you choose to pursue an appeal against the decision, you must comply with the state's strict guidelines and timeframes for appeal requests.
It's important to note that appeals are quite demanding and require the experience and strategy of counsel who is well-equipped and familiar with the state's bureaucratic system. Fortunately, the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team members have successfully navigated nursing appeals for nurses across Mississippi.
I Don't Want to Pursue an Appeal. Can My License Ever Be Reinstated?
If you don't want to pursue an appeal, you may be wondering if you will ever be able to practice again after having a license revoked. A suspended or revoked license can potentially be reissued after one year at the panel's discretion.
Areas We Serve in Mississippi
Our Team can help you craft a defense regardless of what nursing agency you are employed with. We provide strategic representation throughout every county and city in Mississippi. Whether you are affiliated with Prime Care Nursing out of Jackson, Advantage Nursing Services out of Gulfport, Southaven's Quickstaff Nursing, or Nursing Management Inc. in Biloxi, we can help.
How Can the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team Help Me?
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is equipped with the reputation and experience to defend your nursing license, career, and peace of mind. If you unexpectedly find yourself released from a contract, potentially without adequate notice or the opportunity to present your perspective to your agency, it may indicate that misconduct allegations are being considered at the state level. While you may feel like giving up, it's important to remember that you might have viable options to contest these allegations and protect your career. Many professionals have been successful in their efforts to challenge or mitigate disciplinary penalties given to them by the Mississippi Board of Nursing.
Our Team is ready to develop a strategic defense plan to address your unique challenges. We are equipped to assist you through the intricate procedures involved in state Board investigations, including managing complaints and inquiries. Our services extend to representing you in settlement discussions and, if necessary, in administrative hearings. Our approach is thorough and tailored, as we dedicate time to comprehensively understand and incorporate the specific factual and legal aspects crucial to your defense.
Should you already receive disciplinary outcomes from the Board or an administrative judge, our Team can provide guidance and support in filing an appeal. If you do not want to pursue an appeal, we can help you prepare your request for license reinstatement.
Contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Today
If you're dealing with contract termination from your hospital, agency dismissal, or an investigation before the Mississippi Board of Nursing, this does not mean that you must accept defeat. Many professionals have successfully challenged disciplinary actions brought by the Mississippi Board of Nursing. For more information on how you can protect your reputation and career, contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team today. We can provide the essential support and advocacy you need. Contact us today at 888-535-3686 or use our convenient online contact form.