Being an agency nurse is a noble but often thankless job. The job has significant physical and emotional demands, potentially causing you to drive more hours than staff nurses to get to work and often have fewer benefits. Even with these difficulties, the Lento Law Firm knows that agency nurses always prioritize their patients' needs and treat every patient like their own family. Because of this dedication to your career and your patients, it is probably very upsetting to hear disciplinary action may be taken against your agency nursing license.
Learning that the Board of Nursing has received a complaint against you and that you are being investigated for misconduct is devastating and terrifying. It is very normal to feel angry, scared, or confused; The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is here for you. Our job is to demystify the disciplinary process. We walk you through each step, what everything means, and most importantly, fight to defend your agency nursing license. Our Team has helped agency nurses throughout Oregon obtain successful outcomes in disciplinary actions against their licenses. To learn more about how we can vigorously defend your agency nursing license, call us at 888.535.3686 or contact us online today.
Oregon Agency Nurse Regulatory Body
The Oregon State Board of Nursing regulates everything related to nursing, including licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice nurses, and more. The Governor of Oregon appoints its nine members. They are comprised of two members of the public: four registered nurses, one licensed practical nurse, one certified nursing assistant, and one nurse practitioner. The four registered nurses each represent one of the following practice areas: nurse educator, nurse administrator, or direct-care non-supervisory nurse.
The Board of Nursing has a whole host of responsibilities, including:
- Interpreting the Oregon Nurse Practice Act
- Evaluating and approving nursing education and nursing assistance training programs
- Issuing and renewing nursing licenses
- Investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action against nurses who violate the Oregon Nurse Practice Act
The Board of Nursing maintains a website that allows the public to verify the license status of any Oregon nurse; this database is the Oregon State Board of Nursing License Verification Portal. This database will show any disciplinary action taken against a nurse's license. Disciplinary actions are also posted on its website, which lists all the disciplinary actions taken against nurses monthly.
Oregon Agency Nurse Laws and Regulations
Oregon's Nurse Practice Act is relevant to agency nurses and disciplinary actions against them. The Oregon Nurse Practice Act includes both Oregon laws and administrative rules. The Oregon Nurse Practice Act gives the Board of Nursing the authority to write administrative rules governing nurses throughout the state.
Oregon Agency Nursing License Disciplinary Charges
It is important to remember that when you hear that a complaint has been made against you, it doesn't mean the Board of Nursing has, or will, determine you are guilty of the allegations against you. Complaints are just that, and they need to be investigated thoroughly if the Board of Nursing even determines the allegation is severe enough to warrant an investigation.
The Board of Nursing must go through due process, or more simply, without allowing you to defend yourself against a government action. In this case, the action will be a disciplinary action against your agency nursing license. The Lento Law Firm is here to help defend the charges against you and your agency nursing license. Our Team will begin by walking you through the charges against you, the possible disciplinary actions the Board of Nursing may try to impose, and devising a plan to fight the disciplinary charges against you.
Oregon Agency Nursing License Disciplinary Actions
The Board of Nursing assesses all allegations of nurses violating the Oregon Nurse Practice Act and the Board of Nursing's rules and regulations. Your Lento Law Firm professional license defense attorney will guide you through each step of the process in greater detail, but you can find a general overview of the process below.
Complaints to the Board of Nursing can be filed anonymously using the online complaint form, and there are no restrictions on who can file a complaint, but about 50-60 percent of complaints come from the agency nurse's employer. Other common reporters include state agencies, coworkers, patients, and their families. The contents of the complaint and details of the subsequent investigation will be kept confidential. The nature of the complaint can only be released to the public if disciplinary action is taken. The Board of Nursing requests the following information be included in the complaint:
- Who committed the actions being reported?
- Who was the victim(s)?
- Who discovered the incident/behavior?
- Who else was involved?
- What happened?
- What equipment was involved?
- Where did the incident/behavior occur?
- Where were the witnesses (if any) during the incident?
- When were supervisors/authorities notified?
- How was the incident committed?
- How was the incident/behavior discovered?
- How much property or money was taken (if applicable)?
- The completed Complaint Evaluation Tool form, if used to determine whether to report the incident/behavior.
The Board of Nursing clearly states that not every misstep made by a nurse or agency nurse needs to be reported. The Board of Nursing has stated that the Oregon Nursing Practice Act requires reporting unsafe practices due to potential or actual public safety risks. Still, only some nursing errors can or should be reported. They have even released a Complaint Evaluation Tool to help those considering submitting a complaint determine if it is necessary and appropriate to do so.
Once a complaint is submitted, the Board of Nursing must evaluate any complaint alleging a potential violation of the Oregon Nursing Practice Act. The Board of Nursing may now decide that a potential violation has not occurred and that the incident or behavior would not qualify for disciplinary action. The complaint would then be dismissed.
If the Board of Nursing finds a potential Oregon Nursing Practice Act violation, it will immediately open an investigation. The investigation will include gathering and reviewing documents such as police reports, incident reports, witness statements, court records, and medical records. The assigned investigator will also conduct interviews to meet with the agency nurse who is the subject of the complaint. The interview will be confidential and for fact-gathering; no disciplinary action or defense is required.
You are entitled to have your attorney present, and we highly recommend you retain the Lento Law Firm and have your Lento Law Firm professional licensed defense attorney present. While the purpose of the interview is fact-gathering, you still need to be careful of what you say; you don't want to accidentally make self-incriminating statements that will cause problems down the line.
Once the assigned investigator has completed their investigation, they will send an Investigator Report to the Board of Nursing to be discussed by the Board at the next scheduled Board meeting.
The agency nurse can, ideally, with the assistance of their Lento Law Firm attorney, negotiate a stipulation agreement. Stipulation agreements involve the agency nurse signing a document acknowledging the facts of the incident, admitting to the violation(s) of the Oregon Nursing Practice Act and Board of Nursing rules, and agreeing to the proposed disciplinary action and terms and conditions to be imposed. The Board of Nursing will vote upon the stipulated agreement, and a Final Order will be issued if approved. The majority of cases are resolved through a stipulation agreement. Your Lento Law Firm attorney will negotiate the best possible terms for your agreement to minimize disciplinary action against your license.
The Board of Nursing will review the Investigator Report during their monthly meeting. At the meeting, they will determine if a violation of the Oregon Nurse Practice Act has occurred. If the determination is no, the case will be dropped immediately; if a violation did occur, the Board of Nursing will decide what disciplinary action, if any, is appropriate.
If the Board of Nursing decides to take disciplinary action against the agency nurse, the options are detailed below. It will issue a Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action to that agency nurse. As stated in the Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action, the nurse will then have a short time to request a contested case hearing. This request must be in writing.
Suppose the nurse fails to submit a request for a contested case hearing at the next Board meeting. In that case, the Board of Nursing will issue a Final Issue by Default, making the proposed disciplinary action effective immediately.
When working through what disciplinary action, if any, to take against an agency nurse, the Board of Nursing will consider mitigating and aggravating factors. Mitigating factors are those that do not excuse or justify the agency nurse's conduct but are considered out of fairness in deciding the degree of the offense. The mitigating factors the Board of Nursing will assess include but are not limited to:
- Communication breakdown (e.g., multiple handoffs, change of shift, language barrier)
- Limited or unavailable resources (e.g., inadequate supplies or equipment)
- Interruptions, chaotic work environment, emergencies, and distractions
- Worked more than 12 hours in 24 hours or 60 hours in a work week to meet agency needs
- High work volume or staffing issues
- Unclear policies or procedures
- Performance evaluations have been above average
- Insufficient orientation or training
- Patient factors (e.g., combative, agitated, cognitively impaired, threatening)
- Non-supportive environment
- Lack of response by other departments or providers
Aggravating factors increase the severity or culpability of the incident or behavior. The aggravating factors the Board of Nursing will consider in its determination will include:
- Took advantage of a leadership position
- Committed an especially heinous, cruel, and/or violent act
- Knowing created risk for more than one patient
- Threatening or bullying behaviors
- Previous disciplinary action or practice-related issues in the previous 13 – 24 months
- Vulnerable patient (e.g., geriatric, pediatric, mentally or physically challenged, sedated)
The Board of Nursing has the authority to impose the following disciplinary actions, which will be detailed in the Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action:
- Dismissal. The case will be closed with the agency nurse receiving a “letter of concern,” but no public record will be created.
- Reprimand. The agency nurse will receive notice that they have violated a Board of Nursing rule or regulation.
- Probation. The Board of Nursing will impose restrictions or conditions on the agency nurse and their license.
- Suspension. The agency nurse will be prohibited from practicing nursing for a set period.
- Revocation. The agency nurse will have their agency nurse license removed for at least three years.
- Voluntary surrender. The agency nurse may voluntarily surrender their license for at least three years.
- Civil penalty. The agency nurse may be fined up to $5,000.
Once the Board of Nursing has received a contested case hearing request, the Nursing Board will notify the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings. This state government office handles conflicts between the public and government entities (in this case, between the agency nurse and the Board of Nursing). The case will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge who will set a hearing date.
The contested case hearing is similar to a trial; there are numerous rules, procedures, and deadlines to abide by. If you don't comply with these, you could lose your case on a technicality. Fortunately, your Lento Law Firm attorney has represented agency nurses in countless contested case hearings and is familiar with the ins and outs of the process.
During the hearing, the Board of Nursing will present its case against the agency nurse to support its proposed disciplinary action. Your Lento Law Firm attorney will present your side of the story through a rigorous defense. At the end of the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a Proposed Order. The Proposed Order will be sent to the Board of Nursing and presented at the next scheduled Board meeting. At that meeting, the Board of Nursing will decide whether to accept the Proposed Order; if so, it will issue a Final Order.
If you feel the Administrative Law Judge and the Board of Nursing have not made the appropriate determination, you are legally entitled to an appeal. It is possible that an attorney has not represented you through the disciplinary process, but it is not too late. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is often hired at the appeal stage, and we have successfully argued for a better outcome for our clients.
The appeal will likely be filed in the Oregon Court of Appeals. This is a formal court proceeding; like any other court proceeding, you would never go through this process without an attorney. Retaining the Lento Law Firm is your best chance at a successful appeal.
Allegations That Can Lead to Actions Against Your Oregon Agency Nursing License
Actions or behaviors that present the potential for, or actual danger to a patient or the public's health, safety, and welfare, fail to conform to legal nursing standards or accepted standards of the nursing profession, or participate in conduct derogatory to the standards of nursing should be reported to the Board of Nursing. Under Oregon law, actions and behaviors that can lead to Board of Nursing disciplinary action against an agency nurse's license include, but are not limited to:
- Demonstrated incidents of violent, abusive, intimidating, neglectful, or reckless behavior
- Demonstrated incidences of dishonesty, misrepresentation, or fraud
- Failing to conform to the essential standards of acceptable and prevailing nursing practice
- Performing acts beyond the authorized scope or beyond the level of nursing for which the agency nurse is licensed
- Failing to report actual or suspected incidents of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment
- Engaging or attempting to engage in sexual contact with a patient (regardless of setting)
- Failing to establish or maintain professional boundaries with a patient
- Using social media to communicate, post, or otherwise distribute protected client data
- Failure to accurately document nursing interventions and nursing practice implementation
- Falsifying data
- Failing to communicate information regarding the patient's status to members of the health care team in an ongoing and timely manner as appropriate to the context of care
- Stealing money, property, services, or supplies from the patient's family
- Engaging in violent, abusive, or threatening behavior toward a coworker
- Practicing when the physical or mental ability to practice is impaired by the use of a prescription or non-prescription medication, alcohol, or substance
Consequences of Disciplinary Action Against Your Oregon Agency Nursing License
You likely know that disciplinary action against your license will have negative consequences, but you may not know the full extent. Not only will you potentially immediately lose access to your income and livelihood if facing a license suspension or revocation, but disciplinary action against you may also result in a lifelong inability to practice nursing anywhere in the country.
When disciplinary action is taken against your agency nursing license, the Board of Nursing will report the disciplinary action to various nursing verification databases, including Nursys. Like other verification databases, Nursys includes public information that verifies the status of nursing licenses and provides disciplinary action information and practice privilege information for RNs and LPNs.
Having your disciplinary action in national databases means that you may be unable to obtain a nursing license in other states if you want to pursue that career option. Each state's Board of Nursing will review these databases before issuing a license, and you can even face penalties and fines from those state nursing boards if you lie on your agency nursing license application. Further, even if you could obtain an agency nursing license in another state or reinstate your Oregon license, potential employers often view these databases when hiring. They are deterred from hiring those with disciplinary records.
Aside from economic and career consequences, losing a license you worked so hard and spent so much money to obtain never feels good. Further, the disciplinary action against you will be public and can damage your reputation and relationships. You must do everything you can to minimize and hopefully eliminate any consequences of the disciplinary charges against you. The Lento Law Firm will do everything possible to get these charges dismissed or any proposed punishments reduced.
Areas We Serve in Oregon
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has worked with agency nursing all over Oregon. While we can reach you from the city to the sticks, we most often serve larger cities, including Portland, Salem, and Eugene. The agency nurses we have represented have worked in some of the most significant healthcare systems in Oregon, such as Legacy Health, Asante, St. Charles Health System, Adventist Health Portland, and Samaritan Health Services.
Retain the Lento Law Firm Today
When you retain the Lento Law Firm, we promise to be by your side every step of the disciplinary action process. We will do everything in our power to obtain the best possible outcome in your case and protect your agency nursing license. You deserve to continue doing the job you love and helping patients in your Oregon community. Call us at 888.535.3686 or contact us online today so we can get started working for you.