In the healthcare space, each professional has a distinct and crucial role to play. When boundaries blur, and professionals step outside their designated roles, they not only jeopardize patient safety but also risk serious professional consequences. If you're a practicing nurse who has been accused of acting as a physician, for example, you could be facing career-ending ramifications from your Board of Nursing. Let's talk about the ramifications of this type of accusation and offer some guidance on how nursing professionals can protect their licenses and careers.
How Nurses Can Be Accused of Impersonating Doctors
Nurses can face disciplinary actions for many different types of misconduct, but in virtually every state, one of the offenses most likely to result in loss of license is acting outside the scope of your nurse's license. Impersonating a doctor is a prime example of this offense. Common ways this can happen include:
- Giving a diagnosis: Nurses can often interpret symptoms the same as a doctor can, but giving an official diagnosis is strictly the doctor's responsibility.
- Prescribing medication: Only doctors have the authority to prescribe medication. If a nurse does this, they're essentially impersonating a doctor.
- Using the title “Doctor”: Even if you've earned a doctoral degree, using the title “Doctor” when acting as a nurse can be misleading and is considered impersonation.
- Making critical care decisions: Decisions like discharging a patient, ordering tests, or changing treatment plans should only be made by a doctor.
- Providing specialist advice: If you present yourself as a specialist in a field without the necessary qualifications, it can be seen as impersonation.
Professional Consequences of Impersonation
Once a complaint is filed against a nurse for impersonating a doctor, it initiates an investigation by the state nursing board. From here, you could face any/all of the following consequences:
- Temporary suspension of your license: If your Board of Nursing deems you a safety risk to patients, they can stop you from practicing immediately until the investigation is complete.
- Disciplinary action (including loss of license): With an allegation as serious as impersonating a doctor, the chance of having your license revoked is quite high.
- Difficulty getting re-licensed: Most state nursing boards publish records of adverse actions against their licensees as public records. Additionally, the action will be reported to Nursys, a national database, which can impact your ability to be licensed in other states.
- Other legal actions: You could face criminal charges for fraud or civil charges for malpractice if a patient suffers harm due to your actions.
Steps to Protect Your License
If you're a nurse accused of impersonating a doctor, your career is very much at stake. But there are some steps you can take proactively that may safeguard your license:
- Seek legal advice immediately. For best results, seek out a professional license defense attorney with experience in nursing licensure.
- Let your attorney represent you to the board. Any communication with the board should be done via your attorney to avoid inadvertently harming your case.
- Maintain a record of all interactions related to the case. This includes dates, times, people involved, and the nature of the interaction. These records can be invaluable in building your defense.
Whether the allegations against you came from an honest mistake or a lapse in judgment, the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help. We have nationwide experience in defending nurses and other healthcare professionals accused of professional wrongdoing, and we're here to make sure your rights are protected. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.