Being a licensed nurse in Pennsylvania is a challenging yet rewarding profession. Between the years of intensive education, clinical experience 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 Pennsylvania 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 you are facing a license investigation, it is essential to have an experienced professional license defense attorney by your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a Pennsylvania professional license defense attorney who has helped many nurses and other professionals 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?
The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing may take disciplinary action against a license nurse for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common include, but are not limited to:
- Unprofessional conduct. This is a large category that includes a number of behaviors, ranging from acting improperly on the job to having an inappropriate romantic/sexual relationship with a colleague, patient, or superior.
- Mishandling/misuse of drugs. Although most nurses can't prescribe medications, they do administer them to patients. That trust may be broken by such behaviors as diverting medications intended for patients, pilfering medications of personal use or street sale, failing to document medications correctly, and submitting unauthorized prescriptions to pharmacies—any of which could result in the loss of your license.
- Patient abuse or neglect. A nurse's license may be jeopardized if they mistreat a patient physically, verbally, sexually, or mentally or fail to provide them with timely or adequate care.
- Fraud. Examples include falsifying patient records, overstating credentials, inflating bills sent to insurance, etc.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted of certain crimes (e.g., theft, DUI, or drug possession) may disqualify you from practicing as a nurse. You can also lose your license for failing to report a recent conviction.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Nurses in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has a uniform system for handling complaints about licensed professionals and for deciding on disciplinary actions. Anyone who wishes to do so may file a formal complaint against any licensed professional with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Patients, coworkers, other nurses, and, in some cases, insurers are all possible complainants against Pennsylvania nurses.
After the BPOA receives a complaint, the disciplinary process moves forward as follows.
After a complaint is received and evaluated by the BPOA, an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) will be assigned to investigate it. The investigation may include such actions as interviewing the complainant and any witnesses, document subpoenas, and requesting your written response to the complaint. If the investigator's efforts do not uncover sufficient evidence to support the complaint, the Board of Nursing will dismiss it and proceed no further. However, if there is enough evidence to warrant possible disciplinary action, the case will move forward.
If the BEI investigator finds enough convincing evidence against you, the Board may try to negotiate a consent agreement with you. Under this agreement, you would effectively admit to wrongdoing and submit to whatever recommendations for penalties they give. If disciplinary action is unavoidable, a consent agreement may be the best option—especially if it includes a road to license reinstatement. However, it isn't always the best solution, so we recommend consulting with an attorney before signing one.
If you decline to sign a consent agreement (or if one is not offered), you will have to attend a formal hearing in front of a state examiner to show cause why your license should not be revoked. An attorney may represent you at this hearing, at the conclusion of which the examiner will make recommendations to the Board of Nursing regarding any disciplinary actions. Depending on the circumstances and the findings of the hearing, discipline could range from a mild reprimand all the way to full revocation of your nurse's license.
Why You Need a Pennsylvania Nursing License Defense Attorney
Unlike being charged with a crime, there is no guaranteed presumption of innocence when it comes to allegations against your license. The Board of Nursing has an obligation to protect the public, and that means they have broad authority to issue discipline against nurses they believe have violated their standards of professionalism, ethics, or the public trust. They determine guilt or innocence based on the preponderance of the evidence standard--meaning they only have to be convinced that you're more than 51 percent likely to have committed the offense. In other words, you're potentially at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed against you with the BPOA.
Having a seasoned license defense counsel in your corner can even out the odds in the investigation. Your lawyer can research the complaint and assist you in drafting a response that may persuade the Board to dismiss it outright. Your attorney can protect your rights during each stage of the process, from negotiating for dismissal of the complaint to working for lenient penalties and/or fair terms in a consent agreement and defending you vigorously in a formal hearing, if necessary. In short, your chances of keeping your nurse's license go up considerably with a skilled attorney on your side.
If you are a nurse in Pennsylvania, having a complaint against your license is nothing to be taken lightly. Take action immediately to protect your future by hiring an attorney who will work in your best interests. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.