Your most important possession as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)? Without question, your license. Your license proves that you've put in the work to be a CRNA—that you completed a bachelor's degree, that you earned a doctorate, that you passed the National Certification Exam, and that you managed to get through the Nebraska licensing process. More than any of that, though, it grants you the right to practice as a CRNA in the state of Nebraska.
If your license is in jeopardy, it means your job, your livelihood, and your career are in jeopardy. Even a license suspension can make you unemployable in the healthcare industry, and a revocation means you likely couldn't get hired even if someone wanted to take a chance on you.
License investigations can happen for all kinds of reasons. Maybe someone's raised questions about your continuing education credits. Maybe the school that awarded you your degree has lost its accreditation. By far, the most common reason, though, is a misconduct complaint. Whatever the reason, any investigation is a scary prospect.
You don't have to face it alone. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm believe in what you do. We've dedicated our careers to helping healthcare professionals defend themselves. We know how hard you work, and we want to make sure that you're treated fairly. If you're under investigation, if your license is in jeopardy—for any reason—give us a call and find out how we can help at 888-535-3686. Or use our automated online form.
What Can Put Your CRNA License at Risk?
Like all other healthcare professionals in Nebraska, CRNAs are under the jurisdiction of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS grants licenses and handles all license renewals. It also has the power to initiate disciplinary action: to conduct investigations, to hold hearings, and to issue sanctions when necessary.
State law includes a long list of infractions, any one of which can lead to a DHHS investigation. The most common issues, though, include
- Unprofessional Conduct: This is a broad category of offense that can include anything from verbal abuse of a patient to conducting an inappropriate relationship with another staff member.
- Misuse or Mishandling of Drugs: CRNAs have access to many types of medication. Any abuse of this privilege is grounds for disciplinary action. That includes personal misuse of medication, theft of medication, and selling medication. You can also get into trouble for far less serious offenses, such as administering the wrong medication or anesthesia, failing to properly document the drugs you dispense, or for submitting the wrong paperwork to a pharmacy or insurer.
- Patient Abuse or Neglect: Patient abuse is among the most serious charges any CRNA can face, whether those charges involve verbal, mental, physical, or sexual abuse. You don't have to actively abuse a patient, though, to find yourself in trouble. Patient neglect is equally serious, and should you fail to attend to your proper duties, you can also be held responsible for negligence.
- Fraud: This involves any act of professional dishonesty you commit for personal gain. This might include falsification of patient records, the filing of inaccurate insurance claims, and even overstating your professional credentials.
- Criminal Convictions: You can also be disciplined for failing to abide by local, state, or federal laws, even if your actions have no direct bearing on your professional responsibilities. Health care professional is a position in the public trust, and CRNAs and other types of nurses are often held to higher standards than ordinary citizens. As a result, a criminal conviction for something as relatively minor as a DUI can be grounds for license revocation.
Any time you find yourself accused of violating state law or DHHS policy, you must take it seriously. That means hiring the best legal representation you can find. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team knows Nebraska law, and they know how the Nebraska DHHS operates. They can make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.
The Disciplinary Process for CRNAs in Nebraska
The good news is that you always have the right to defend yourself if you've been charged with misconduct. Nebraska's DHHS rules and regulations entitle you to a full investigation and a hearing, as well as several additional due process rights. Generally speaking, cases unfold in four stages.
- Cases typically begin when someone lodges a complaint against you with DHHS.
- DHHS then conducts an investigation into the allegation.
- You have the opportunity to defend yourself at a formal hearing.
- DHHS either clears you of the charges or issues you a sanction.
Here's a more detailed look at what happens during each of these stages.
Anyone may lodge a complaint against you with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Complaints tend to come from
- Supervised employees
- Other staff
In fact, under Title 172, some healthcare professionals are required to report any knowledge they may have of DHHS violations, including negligence, incompetence, gross misconduct, and criminal convictions.
DHHS's first responsibility when it receives a complaint is to determine whether that complaint is credible and actionable. You cannot be charged simply because a patient doesn't like your bedside manner or chooses to dispute your fee. In fact, this is one reason it's important to have a Lento Law Firm attorney on your side from the very beginning of your case. They can sometimes intervene in the early stages of a case and convince DHHS that an allegation doesn't merit a full investigation.
Should DHHS decide to proceed with the complaint, it must then provide you with a written Notice of the Charges. This notice should include details of the allegation and a list of your due process rights.
The Nebraska DHHS appoints investigators to pursue each complaint. Investigators usually begin by inviting you to respond to allegations. Your Lento Law Firm attorney can help you formulate this response. In addition, they can suggest avenues of investigation to investigators, offer up any relevant evidence, and recommend witnesses for interviews.
Investigators have the authority to pursue any and all avenues of investigation. Among their powers, they have the right to subpoena witnesses.
Ultimately, investigators must compile a written document summarizing their findings in the case. This becomes the foundation of the hearing that follows. Additionally, investigators are often asked to testify at this hearing as to the most important aspects of their findings.
A DHHS hearing resembles a criminal trial, at least in its general outline. For example, both sides present their cases. That involves submitting evidence, calling witnesses to testify, and raising questions about the other side's evidence. A Hearing Officer appointed by DHHS presides over the case and ultimately renders a decision as to your Responsibility (guilt), just as a judge presides over a court case. And importantly, you're entitled to legal representation throughout the proceedings. Your Lento Law Firm attorney makes arguments on your behalf, attends to procedural matters, and conducts witness examination and cross-examination.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that a DHHS hearing is not the same as a criminal trial. Procedures are relaxed. The hearing doesn't take place in a courtroom, and the rules are not as strict. For example, some types of hearsay evidence may be allowed. One of the most important differences between a DHHS hearing and a criminal trial is in how DHHS hearings are decided. The panel doesn't have to find you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, it is required to find you guilty if it believes you “more likely than not” committed an offense.
This is one reason why you need a Lento Law Firm attorney in particular. The average defense attorney has experience in courtrooms but not board hearings. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team, on the other hand, has worked with hundreds of professionals, defending them against all types of charges. They know what the federal law has to say about licensing issues, and they know Nevada state law as it applies specifically to CRNAs. They're also used to navigating the Nevada DHHS system, and they can help you use that system to your advantage.
The hope is always that you'll be cleared of all charges in the complaint against you, and that's the resolution your Lento Law Firm attorney will be working towards.
Should you be found responsible, however, DHHS is further empowered to apply a range of sanctions. These can include
- Formal reprimand
- Conditions, limitations, or restrictions on your license
- Administrative fines
- License probation
- License suspension
- License revocation
Your Lento Law Firm attorney can play an important role in negotiating a fair sanction if that becomes necessary. They can also file any necessary appeals in the case. All appeals are heard by a Nebraska district court, and as with the original hearing, your attorney represents you during all phases of your appeal.
Why You Need Someone From the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team
It should be clear at this point why you need an attorney any time your CRNA license is threatened. To summarize, though,
- Everything is at stake in a professional license defense. Whenever you're facing a DHHS investigation, there's a chance your license could be revoked. That's more than an inconvenience. It almost certainly means the end of your career in the healthcare industry.
- Nursing anesthetist conduct cases can be complicated. You may be dealing with complex issues in terms of what actually happened. You'll almost certainly be dealing with subtle interpretations of the law and DHHS policies. And it's never easy navigating judicial procedures. You're a healthcare professional, but you need a legal professional to help you through all of this.
- DHHS can be an advocate for Nebraska nurses. The organization plays an important role, for instance, in pushing for fair legislation, and it works to make sure Nebraska citizens understand just how valuable healthcare professionals in the state are. Once you've been accused of misconduct, though, DHHS becomes your adversary. You need someone in your corner, someone who is specifically looking out for your interests.
Again, though, we cannot stress this enough: you don't want just any lawyer. CRNAs are sometimes tempted to hire local or family attorneys. After all, these attorneys are readily available. You can find them on any main street in any Nebraska town. You may even have a preexisting relationship with one of them. The problem with using them in this instance is that local attorneys have rarely studied licensing laws in any depth. They likely know the court system in your area, but DHHS is a state agency, and they're probably not familiar with it. You need someone who works specifically in the area of license defense to protect your interests.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team was created specifically to deal with professional licensing issues. Team attorneys know the law, and how to use it to protect your rights. But they also know the Nebraska state licensing system. A local attorney is great if you're trying to make out your will or defend yourself from a DUI charge. If you're trying to defend your CRNA license, though, you want to put your trust in a firm that knows exactly how to do that. You need the Lento Law Firm.
What Can the Lento Law Firm Do for You?
Your CRNA license means everything to you. It gives you the right to practice your profession. It certifies that you are qualified and experienced. It lets patients know that you can be trusted. If that license is being threatened in any way, you can't afford to take chances. You absolutely must do everything you can to defend yourself, and that starts with hiring the best legal representation you can.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team understands your situation. They have the background and experience to take on the Nebraska DHHS. Most importantly, though, they're committed to making sure your rights are protected.