Between the time and money you've invested into nursing school, putting in hundreds of hours of clinical experience, sitting for the grueling NCLEX exam, and qualifying for state licensure, becoming a licensed LPN, RN, or APRN in Florida is an achievement all its own. The job is frequently grueling and often thankless, but you have forged a career out of helping people, and that's something to be proud of.
Unfortunately, everything you've worked for can be put at risk with a single complaint to the Florida Board of Nursing alleging that you've engaged in misconduct.
Your nursing license is the key to your livelihood and your access card to employment opportunities across various healthcare facilities such as doctor's offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and more. But that license is conditional, and if the Board of Nursing investigates a complaint and decides you've violated the terms of your license, they have the power to suspend or revoke it--thereby jeopardizing your career and your future.
It may seem like a cruel irony, but this happens more often than you think. Perhaps it was a simple misunderstanding or misstep; perhaps you made a mistake or had a lapse in judgment. Whatever the case, the good news is that you don't have to face this crisis alone. Hiring a skilled professional license defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against the complaint and potentially prevent the loss of your license. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team have nationwide experience in resolving licensing disputes and complaints. They know how Florida administrative law works, and they know how to advocate for you in a way that greatly improves your odds of getting a fair and positive resolution--one that keeps your nurse's license intact. If your Florida nurse's license is under scrutiny, please contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
What Types of Accusations Can Threaten Your Nursing License?
In Florida, nurses are mandated to adhere to stringent ethical and professional conduct standards as laid out in the state's Nurse Practice Act. If your license is in trouble, it's most likely due to an alleged violation of this code or some other breach of the public trust. Let's look at some of the most common reasons nurses can lose a license to practice:
- Sexual misconduct. Nursing is a profession requiring huge levels of trust and discretion because nurses are often with patients in vulnerable or intimate situations. Any unprofessional sexual conduct, consensual or otherwise, is generally grounds for license suspension or revocation. Even romantic relationships between nurses and patients are deemed highly unethical and can result in the loss of a license.
- Mismanagement or misuse of drugs. This includes any kind of drug diversion, forging prescriptions or orders for drugs, prescribing medication without a valid license, negligence when dispensing drugs, discrepancies with drug inventories, etc.
- Misconduct in patient care. Negligence or poor judgment can have serious repercussions that extend to your nursing license. Examples include failing to follow protocols and procedures, inadequate or improper documentation of patient care, any type of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, or any other action that places a patient at unnecessary risk.
- Fraud. Deceptive practices like tampering with patient records, exaggerating your qualifications, or submitting incorrect or inflated bills to insurance companies can lead to the revocation of your license.
- Criminal convictions. In the State of Florida, being convicted of certain crimes can disqualify you from holding a nurse's license. These include (but are not limited to) violent felonies, lewdness, child abuse, domestic violence, and other crimes of moral turpitude--as well as crimes directly related to your practice.
Can My License Be Revoked Over Any Offense?
Technically yes, although the Board has numerous other disciplinary options and tends to reserve license revocation for the most severe violations. If the Board opts to let you keep your license, it may impose other sanctions or remedies as an alternative. These may include, but aren't limited to:
- License suspension. This measure restricts you from practicing nursing for a definite or indefinite period.
- Practice limitations. The Board may restrict the terms of your practice--for example, limiting your working hours, prohibiting you from performing certain tasks or revoking your multi-state license privileges (see section on Nurse Licensure Compact below).
- Remediation. If the violation resulted from a gap in your education, the Board might mandate that you participate in continuing education programs to maintain your license.
- Alternative-to-discipline programs. In instances of substance abuse, the Board may require you to attend a recovery program or supervised monitoring as conditional to keeping your license.
- Fines. A financial penalty may be imposed by the Board.
- Reprimand. For minor offenses, the BON might issue a formal warning, which is recorded on your profile but does not limit your license.
Bear in mind that even if your license is not suspended or revoked, any of these lesser sanctions can still detrimentally impact your career, as they usually are public records and will show up on license searches for at least three years in Florida. For example, potential employers can conduct a state license search on you or check the Nursys database for any disciplinary actions against your license. If they find any, it could influence their decision to hire you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can provide you an advantage by negotiating for a resolution that may reduce these risks to your professional reputation.
Areas We Serve in Florida
Boasting a population of more than 21 million people, Florida (unbeknownst to some) is the third most populous state in the U.S., behind only California and Texas. Florida is also the most popular destination in the country for retirees, which means the demand for good nurses is exceedingly high in this part of the country. While the Lento Law Firm can represent nurses facing licensing issues in any city or municipality within the state, most of our clients predictably live and work in some of the state's more populated areas, which include the following.
While Miami is only the second-largest city in Florida, it helps anchor the largest metropolitan area in the state by far, with more than 6 million inhabitants. The metro area sprawls along nearly 100 miles of coastline that includes other popular destinations like Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Miami is home to a vibrant cultural and economic center, with industries ranging from banking to tourism. The city is also known for its lively nightlife, world-class beaches, architecture, and entertainment venues. Major healthcare systems serving the Miami metropolitan area include Mount Sinai Medical Center Memorial Healthcare System (with five hospital campuses alone), Broward Health, HCA Florida Healthcare, and the Palm Beach Health Network.
Located along Florida's northern coast along the Atlantic, Jacksonville is Florida's single largest city with a population of nearly 1 million--and the largest city by land area in the U.S. The city is a hub for commerce and culture, housing diverse neighborhoods, renowned museums, and significant architectural landmarks. Known as the "River City by the Sea," Jacksonville's location on the St. Johns River and the Atlantic makes it a key maritime port and a popular destination for watersports, fishing, and beachside relaxation. It's also home to several military bases, including Naval Air Station Jacksonville, making it the third-largest military presence in the country. Primary health systems serving this area include HCA Florida Healthcare, Ascension Healthcare, University of Florida Health Jacksonville, and the Mayo Clinic.
While Tampa is Florida's third-largest city with nearly 400,000 people, the Tampa metropolitan area encompasses several cities in West Central Florida (including St. Petersburg and Clearwater) and is home to over 3 million people in total. It is a hub for international business, commerce, culture, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and tourism. The city is also known for its maritime heritage, with Tampa Bay serving as a major port in the region. As with Jacksonville and Miami, HCA Florida Healthcare maintains numerous facilities in this area. Other health networks serving this region include BayCare and the University of South Florida Health. The famed Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital is also located in Clearwater.
Located in central Florida, Orlando is home to more than 300,000 people and serves as the core of a metropolitan area of 2.5 million people. Often called "The City Beautiful," Orlando is a dynamic city best known for its thriving tourism sector. As the home of world-renowned theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld, it attracts millions of tourists each year. The city also has a bustling economy beyond tourism, including sectors such as technology, healthcare, and aerospace. The largest healthcare network serving this area is Orlando Health, which administers numerous facilities and campuses like Orlando Health Medical Pavilion, Health Central Hospital, and the Arnold Palmer Health Center for Children. Other facilities include Advent Health Orlando (formerly Florida Hospital) and the Advent Health Medical Group.
Cape Coral/Fort Myers
The Cape Coral/Fort Myers metropolitan area is located in Southwest Florida and is home to more than 700,000 combined. This region is known for its stunning beaches, waterfront dining and recreation, golf courses, and nature preserves. Cape Coral is also known for its expansive network of navigable canals, over 400 miles in total, which is more than any other city in the world. Healthcare forms a major part of the economy of this area. Major healthcare systems include Lee Health (formerly Lee Memorial Health System) which operates four acute care hospitals plus two specialty hospitals, as well as NCH Healthcare System.
Tallahassee is Florida's capital and the home of its state government, located in the Panhandle on hilly terrain. It has a population of 195,000 people and serves as an educational hub with several universities, colleges, research institutions, and law schools. Tallahassee is also known for its vibrant arts culture ranging from galleries to festivals. The primary health system in this city is Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), which operates a main campus, four specialty hospitals, urgent care centers, and walk-in clinics across the area. Additionally, HCA Florida Capital Hospital serves many of the residents in this region.
Pensacola is located in the Florida Panhandle and has a population of over 54,000 people. This vibrant city serves as a major military hub, home to Naval Air Station Pensacola, which houses several other military installations. It is also known for its historic downtown area, attractive beaches, and ecotourism. Baptist Health Care is the main health system in this region, composed of a network of hospitals, clinics, and specialty centers throughout Northwest Florida. Other facilities include West Florida Hospital (operated by HCA Florida) and Ascension Sacred Heart-Pensacola.
The License Disciplinary Protocol in Florida
If you're a practicing nurse in Florida, it's essential to comprehend the disciplinary procedures that may follow if you are implicated in the alleged misconduct. The Florida Department of Health oversees the enforcement of discipline for healthcare professionals in the state, including licensed nurses, following a complex set of protocols. However, most disciplinary cases proceed through the following basic steps.
The process of disciplinary action starts with the submission of a complaint against you to the Department of Health. Any individual can file a complaint, though commonly, these are lodged by patients, their families, peers, other healthcare professionals, or any person who believes you have violated state standards.
Review of Complaint
The Department evaluates the complaint to determine if the violation falls under the Board's authority before proceeding. For example, in Florida, incidents of sexual misconduct, fraud, or negligence would fall under the state's purview, while billing disputes or general complaints about one's "bedside manner" would not.
Next, the matter is referred to the DoH's Investigative Services Unit (ISU) to conduct an in-depth investigation. This stage may entail seeking additional information from you (including a written response to the complaint), interviewing the complainant and any potential witnesses, and issuing document subpoenas. The goal here is to seek out evidence to corroborate the allegations made against you.
When the investigation concludes, the case moves to the Prosecution Services Unit (PSU) to review the evidence to determine whether there is probable cause to administer disciplinary action. If there is insufficient evidence to confirm the allegations, the PSU will dismiss the complaint at this point. But if probable cause is found, the case moves forward. (The PSU also has the authority to issue emergency action (such as immediate temporary suspension of your license) if they deem that there is a present threat to public safety.)
If the PSU does not dismiss the case, it will file a formal Administrative Complaint against you with the Department of Health. At this point, your case can be resolved in one of four ways:
- Settlement agreement: A settlement agreement is a contract where you come to an agreement with the disciplinary action and other stipulations proposed by the Board. (This outcome typically involves disciplinary action, but our team can often negotiate for leniency and/or a path to having your license reinstated.)
- No contest/hearing waived: You effectively admit to wrongdoing and accept the Board's disciplinary recommendations without a hearing (for example, voluntarily surrendering your license).
- No contest/informal hearing: Same as option 2, but with an informal hearing before the Board to discuss terms.
- Formal hearing: If you contest the Administrative Complaint, you have the right to plead your case in a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge with legal representation. The judge will make a ruling and recommendation to the Board based on the hearing.
Final Board Decision
In cases where you are found guilty of violating your license terms, the Board will finalize the suitable disciplinary actions, which could include suspending or revoking your nursing license.
You retain the right to file an appeal with a Florida District Court if you disagree with the Board's decision. However, be aware that the appeal process can be costly and time-consuming, and most decisions are typically upheld unless there has been a procedural error leading to a miscarriage of justice.
The Consequences of Ignoring a Complaint
Even if you believe the allegations against you are completely unfounded and have no basis, in fact, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Disregarding any formal complaint against your license can have devastating consequences to your career, whether the allegations are serious or minor. Failure to respond to a complaint or neglecting to attend a hearing will almost always result in a default ruling against you, possibly even revoking your license. Your best option is to seek professional legal help at the earliest stages of the investigation, which increases your chances of resolving your case with minimal damage to your nursing career.
Multi-state Licensing and the Nurse Licensure Compact
As a participating member in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), Florida stands with 38 other states in implementing a uniform set of practice standards. This agreement is conducive to the mobility of nursing practitioners as it allows them to serve in multiple states without the necessity for individual licenses for each state. For a licensed nurse in Florida, the eNLC paves the way to apply for a multi-state license, thereby broadening the sphere of practice to include any state within the compact.
Nevertheless, the eNLC introduces some complications when it comes to license discipline. You are governed by the professional conduct guidelines of any state you choose to practice in, which exposes you to potential disciplinary actions should a complaint be lodged against you. In instances where the Florida Board of Nursing or any board within the compact imposes disciplinary action on your license, this information is communicated across the participating states through Nursys, the national nursing licensure and discipline database of the eNLC. Any disciplinary measures taken against you in another state will be disclosed to your Primary State of Residence (PSOR), in this instance, Florida. Disciplinary actions in another state may lead to the suspension or even revocation of your multi-state privileges or, in certain circumstances, your entire license.
Given the complexities of disciplinary proceedings across multiple states, it is prudent to seek the services of a professional license defense firm with a broad national scope. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team possess the expertise to navigate the labyrinth of eNLC issues and robustly defend nursing licenses on a national level.
The Importance of Legal Representation in Protecting Your Nursing License
The Board of Nursing's primary objective is public safety, and while the disciplinary system is set up to promote fairness when possible, they can still impose discipline based only on a preponderance of the evidence. (In other words, you're not guaranteed a presumption of innocence when you're accused of wrongdoing.) Hiring a professional license defense attorney helps to level the playing field so you have a better chance of obtaining a more favorable outcome.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Assist You
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has extensive experience with Florida's disciplinary process, and their negotiating skills can come into play early in the process to iron out an acceptable resolution, often before a formal Administrative Complaint is filed. If you face a hearing, our experienced team can present your case in a persuasive manner and fight for the best possible outcome--all while making sure your rights are protected. In short, engaging a professional license attorney early in the process greatly improves your chances of a favorable outcome.
Professional License Attorney for Florida Nurses
Regardless of the nature of the complaint against you--or whether it's true or false--each step you take in the disciplinary process without proper legal advice puts your nursing career at unnecessary risk. The team at the Lento Law Firm brings a wealth of experience in handling professional license defense cases nationwide and is ready to work relentlessly to defend your nurse's license. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case, or contact us using our online form.