Being a licensed nurse in New Jersey is a challenging yet rewarding profession. Between the years of intensive education, the clinicals and field practice, and sitting for the NCLEX, you've come a long way to get where you are today. Now, your entire career effectively hinges on your license.
The last thing you want is for your livelihood to be put in jeopardy, but unfortunately, disciplinary actions against nurses are not uncommon. The New Jersey Board of Nursing takes allegations of misconduct very seriously, and all it may take is a single complaint to ultimately have your nurse's license revoked--potentially ending your career.
If your license is under investigation, it's crucial that you have a license defense attorney on your side to protect your interests and help you keep your job. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey professional license defense attorney who has helped many professionals like you who are facing possible disciplinary action. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Can Put a Nurse's License at Risk?
Many types of complaints or allegations may potentially lead to an investigation by the Board of Nursing. Some of the more common reasons nurses face disciplinary action include, but are not limited to:
- Unprofessional conduct. This can refer to anything from using inappropriate language to sexual harassment to an inappropriate relationship with a coworker, boss, or patient.
- Mishandling of drugs. Examples might include keeping inaccurate inventories of medications, diverting medications intended for patients, pilfering medicines for personal use, forging prescriptions, etc.
- Patient abuse or neglect. If a nurse physically, verbally, sexually, or mentally abuses a patient or fails to give them timely or adequate treatment, this may jeopardize his or her license.
- Fraud. Examples include overbilling insurance, overstating one's credentials, falsifying patient records, etc.
- Substance abuse. Excessive drinking or use of illicit drugs casts doubt on your ability to provide proper care to your patients. Doing so may result in disciplinary action.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted of certain crimes (especially those involving drug use or crimes of moral turpitude) could disqualify you from holding a nurse's license.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Nurses in New Jersey?
Formal complaints filed with the New Jersey Board of Nursing usually initiate disciplinary actions against nurses in the state. Complainants may be patients, colleagues, employers, or any member of the public. From there, the disciplinary process typically moves forward in a standard fashion as follows:
Request for Written Response
The Board will notify you of the complaint and request a written response from you. Your written response is essential since the Board may dismiss a complaint with no further action if you can provide a convincing explanation for what occurred coupled with supporting evidence. A knowledgeable license defense attorney can help you put together a convincing written response.
Next, the Board will submit the complaint to a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC), which will assign an investigator to fact-find and look for evidence in support of the claim. Interviews with the complainant and others, requests for paperwork, and other activities are all possible methods of fact-finding. You may also be asked to appear before the PEC and testify under oath.
If the investigation uncovers enough evidence to warrant disciplinary action, the Board of Nursing may offer to negotiate a consent order with you in place of a formal hearing. A consent order is a binding agreement in which you acknowledge wrongdoings and agree to comply with the board's penalties as part of an enforceable decision. A consent order isn't the best resolution in every case, but it may be a good option in some cases if it includes a path to reinstatement of your nurse's license.
Absent a consent order, the next stage is a formal hearing. You will be summoned to appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to show cause why the Board should not impose disciplinary action. You may choose to hire an attorney, and both sides will present evidence at the hearing. The judge will issue a recommendation to the Board based on the evidence presented. Based on those recommendations, The Board will decide what disciplinary action to take against you, which may include revoking your license.
Why You Need a New Jersey Nursing License Defense Attorney
If your nurse's license is threatened due to a complaint, the most important thing to know is that the Board of Nursing has an obligation to safeguard public safety at all costs. There is no presumption of innocence when a complaint is filed against your license. In fact, the Board can impose disciplinary action using the "preponderance of the evidence standard," which means it only needs to conclude you are 51 percent likely to have committed wrongdoing to enforce discipline. This puts you at a disadvantage.
An experienced license defense attorney will know how to level the playing field. Your lawyer can investigate the complaint and help you prepare a written response that may convince the Board to dismiss it outright. If the disciplinary process moves forward, your lawyer can help you navigate each stage while protecting your rights. An attorney can negotiate for dismissal of the complaint, work for reduced penalties, negotiate the best possible terms in a consent order, if appropriate, or defend you at a formal hearing. In short, your chances of keeping your license go up considerably with a skilled attorney in your corner.
If you are a nurse in New Jersey who has been notified of a complaint against your license, don't wait until you're summoned to a hearing to get legal help. The sooner you get a skilled attorney involved, the better your chances of obtaining a favorable resolution to any complaint. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.