If you're a nurse, we don't have to tell you: your professional license is your most important asset. It's not just that you need it to work in your field. It tells employers and patients that you know what you're doing, that you put their needs first always, and that you're a professional.
You also know that there's nothing scarier than having your nursing license threatened. You've put an enormous amount of work in to get where you are. You went through years of rigorous education; you spent time gaining clinical experience and field practice, and you studied for hours to prepare for the NCLEX. A misconduct allegation, questions about your professional development hours, or notification that your degree might be fraudulent—any of these can potentially put your license in jeopardy. And the unfortunate fact is, in today's social and political climate, accusations and allegations just aren't all that uncommon.
What would you do if you couldn't practice nursing?
If you're facing an investigation in Rhode Island, you should know: you don't have to deal with this situation all on your own. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team are on your side. They know how hard you work, and they're committed to protecting your reputation and your livelihood. Joseph D. Lento and his team know the law; they also know how the Rhode Island licensure system works. Whether you're wondering which courses you need to take to maintain your credentials or you need legal representation at a formal hearing, they're here to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.
Your license is too important to try and defend on your own. You need a professional attorney at your side. The Lento Law Firm has helped hundreds of nurses retain their licenses. You owe it to yourself to find out what they can do for you.
The Nurse Licensing Process in Rhode Island
What do you need to know if your nursing license is being threatened? Let's start with an overview of the basic licensing process in Rhode Island. As you might expect, the Rhode Island government controls all healthcare licensing in the state. More specifically, nursing licenses are under the purview of the Rhode Island Department of Health. In fact, the Nursing Licensure page of the Department of Health website provides a wealth of important resources and information designed to keep you current in your field. For instance, you'll find updated materials on opioid prescribing, research materials on topics from lead poisoning to HIV, and links to licensing forms. The site posts useful reminders, such as the fact that as of 2019, all nurses must complete CEU training in Alzheimer's treatments.
The site also provides crucial information about what's required to obtain and maintain your nursing license.
- Complete background check, including fingerprinting
- Professional nursing education from a Board-approved program
- Certification from a national certifying body, if necessary
- Good moral character
- Passing scores on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)
- A minimum of ten continuing education hours every two years
It's not always easy to meet all of these criteria. A DUI, for example, or a domestic abuse conviction, could threaten your license, even if your actions had no direct impact on your work as a nurse.
Whether you're responding to questions about your character or you need to provide proof that your continuing education hours are from an accredited program, Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team know how to navigate Rhode Island's nursing licensure system and protect your career.
And you can trust Joseph D. Lento and his team to know all the tips and tricks for staying up-to-date and fully credentialed in Rhode Island. For instance, did you know that you can apply for a six-month continuing education extension if you've experienced a hardship? Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to find out other ways we can help.
Just What Can Put Your Nurses License at Risk?
Knowing what it takes to get and hang on to your nursing license is an important start when it comes to protecting your career. The fact is, though, that even if you are meeting all licensure expectations, your license can still be threatened. The Rhode Island State Board of Nursing has the authority to initiate an investigation into your practice and behavior, and they can take disciplinary action against you if they believe you've violated state regulations. For instance, you can be accused of
- Unprofessional Conduct: This might include any misbehavior specifically related to your job, from verbal abuse of a patient to an inappropriate romantic relationship with a colleague.
- Misuse or Mishandling of Drugs: If you're an APRN, you can prescribe medication. Even if you're simply an LPN, though, you administer medication to patients. That duty requires an enormous amount of trust. Obviously, actions such as stealing medications to sell or for personal use will get you into serious trouble. You can also be disciplined, though, simply for making a mistake in administering drugs, failing to properly document the drugs you dispense, or submitting incorrect paperwork to a pharmacy.
- Patient Abuse or Neglect: You can be investigated for any type of patient abuse, including physical, sexual, mental, or verbal abuse. In addition, you can be investigated for failing to provide a patient with "adequate" or "timely" care.
- Fraud: You don't have to create a dangerous situation to find your license in jeopardy. You can also wind up in trouble for falsifying patient records, overstating your credentials, filing inaccurate insurance bills, or committing any other type of dishonest act for personal gain.
- Criminal Convictions: Again, your license can also be revoked for behaviors that have no direct connection to your professional duties. Rhode Island expects its nurses to maintain high standards of moral and ethical character, and it regards criminal convictions as evidence that you're not meeting those standards. If you're found guilty of drug possession, theft, or even something relatively innocuous like a DUI, you could very well find yourself looking for a new profession.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Nurses in Rhode Island
The good news is that an allegation of misconduct doesn't necessarily mean you'll lose your license. You have the right to defend yourself against any charges. Here's how the process typically works in Rhode Island.
- First, someone makes a complaint about your behavior
- The Rhode Island State Board of Nursing undertakes a full investigation of the complaint
- The Board issues you a Letter of Concern or a Consent Order
- You are given the opportunity to defend yourself at a formal hearing
Complaints can come from a variety of different sources.
- A patient
- A supervisor
- A colleague
- An employee you supervise
- Other staff
- An insurer
In addition, the RI state board regularly conducts its own inspections and can charge you for violating the terms of your license. And, of course, you don't need to face a specific complaint. Your license can be revoked simply for failing to meet the Board's requirements or for getting into trouble with the law.
Ultimately, though, it is not a patient, an employer, or even a prosecutor that controls your license. Your fate is always in the hands of the Rhode Island State Board.
A complaint is just that: a complaint. Just because a complaint has been lodged against you doesn't mean you'll necessarily face any disciplinary action. Even if the complaint arises from a Board inspector, the Board must conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether that complaint is credible and actionable. Not every complaint against you will even be under Board jurisdiction. Allegations of rude behavior, for example, might result in action by your employer but probably wouldn't rise to the level of an official investigation into your license.
Normally, if the Board decides to pursue the complaint, it will assign one or more investigators to look into the matter. Any time you are under investigation, the Board should supply you with a copy of the official charge. This document is crucial not just because it alerts you to what's happening but because it lets you know what actions you're supposed to have committed. You cannot mount a competent defense unless you know exactly what you're accused of having done.
During the course of the investigation, you can expect investigators to pursue a number of different avenues. They will likely interview both you and the Complainant. They may also talk with other witnesses, such as colleagues and supervisors. In some cases, they may collect physical evidence—anything from text messages to drug logs.
Even if the Board initiates a full investigation, it doesn't mean you'll be charged with violating the terms of your license. The investigators don't have the authority to charge you with a violation. Rather, they turn over their findings to the Board itself, which must then decide whether or not the evidence warrants disciplinary action.
You don't want to wait until you're facing a serious sanction, though, before you contact Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team. Any investigation can lead to a finding against you, and it's a lot harder to fight license suspension or revocation once the Board has already made its decision. You need help from the moment you know you will be accused.
Keep in mind as well that a charge and an investigation can be stressful even if you're never actually sanctioned. You can expect investigators to pore over every aspect of your personal and professional life, and they will put the worst possible spin on whatever they happen to find. An attorney doesn't just represent you at a hearing. Joseph D. Lento and his team can stand beside you from start to finish, helping you respond to questions, suggesting evidence and witnesses to investigators, and making absolutely sure you're treated fairly throughout the process.
Consent Orders and Other Temporary Actions
Initially, the Board will meet in a closed-door session to review the Investigative Report. If it decides you are guilty of a violation, though, it will almost certainly take some action against you. No licensing board—especially one that deals with health care—wants to be seen as soft on misconduct.
In most cases, the Board will issue what's known as a Letter of Concern or a Consent Order. This will lay out the charges against you, the findings in the case, and the specific sanctions that have been applied. Most letters are public, designed to reassure patients that the Board is taking steps to protect them.
In terms of sanctions, the Board can take a variety of actions against you. The most common, though, include probation, suspension, or total revocation of your license.
If you accept the charges against you and the proposed sanction, the Consent Order is issued immediately and takes effect without delay. However, the Board won't issue the Consent Order until it offers you the chance to defend yourself at a formal hearing.
It's not always easy to know whether you would be better off accepting the judgment against you or challenging the investigative findings. You have to be able to evaluate carefully the evidence and weigh that against the severity of the sanction. This is yet another crucial role an attorney can fill for you. Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team have years of experience making decisions like these, and they can offer advice on just which path you should take.
If you cannot reach an agreement with the Rhode Island State Board of Nursing regarding their findings and proposed sanctions, the case then moves to a formal hearing.
Board hearings resemble trials, at least in their general outline. That is, both sides get to submit evidence and call witnesses to testify on their behalf. Likewise, both sides get to raise questions about physical evidence and cross-examine any witnesses against them. And, where a judge or jury decides whether or not you're guilty in a court of law, the Board decides whether or not you are responsible for a violation and what, if any, sanction should be applied.
You should know that the Rhode Island State Board of Nursing gives you the right to legal representation if you're under investigation and facing a hearing. This means that in addition to helping you prepare your case, Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can accompany you to the hearing, speak for you, and conduct cross-examination on your behalf.
Here's the thing, though: a Board hearing isn't a trial. There are no formal rules of evidence, for instance. Making your case to Board members is often considerably different than making your case to a judge or jury. And the Board doesn't have to find you guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." A Board's first obligation is to protect the public, and it can strip you of your license even if it doesn't have an airtight case against you as long as it can justify its decision as being in the public's best interest.
In short, you need an attorney, but you need a very particular type of attorney, one who understands how license defenses work, who has experience with the Rhode Island licensure system, and who knows how to talk specifically to Board members. Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team have helped hundreds of clients just like you protect their licenses and their careers. They understand the situation and exactly what it calls for.
Why You Need a Nursing License Defense Team
By this point, you should have a reasonably clear sense of why you need an attorney to help you if your nursing license is under threat.
- Everything is at stake. The Board could always decide to revoke your license, and your license is essential to your career.
- Nursing misconduct cases can be complicated and difficult to navigate. Attorneys are trained to understand judicial systems and to help clients find their way through them.
- You cannot expect your Board to be on your side. You need an advocate, someone in your corner, to make sure your interests are protected.
You don't want just any lawyer, though. It's often tempting when legal problems come up to hire a local attorney or to use a family attorney with whom you already have a relationship.
The problem is health care licensing is a very particular area of the law, and not every attorney has studied it or has experience adjudicating cases. You need someone who understands judicial systems but who also has a feel for how cases outside the courtroom—Board hearings, for example—work.
Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team are specifically focused on defending professionals from misconduct accusations and any other threats to their license. They've worked with hundreds of clients. They know Rhode Island law as it applies to nursing. They know how the licensure system operates. If you're looking to make a will, a Main Street attorney will probably work fine. If you're trying to defend your nursing license, though, you need someone with a background in license defense. You need Joseph D. Lento and his team.
Other Licensure Concerns
Finally, keep in mind that Joseph D. Lento and his team aren't just available for misconduct defenses. Their knowledge of the Rhode Island health care licensing system makes them an excellent resource for many other professional issues.
It's not always easy to keep up with licensing requirements, for example. The healthcare industry is always growing and changing. When the legislature passes new laws, it can sometimes be tough to parse exactly what they mean. Joseph D. Lento and his team work in the field of professional licensing, though, and in particular, with health care licensing. As a result, they're familiar with the law, they keep up with the latest changes, and they're skilled at explaining those changes to their clients.
For example, as of 2018, Rhode Island has chosen to opt out of the national Nurse Licensure Compact program. This program allows nurses to earn a multi-state license recognized in all participating states. Rhode Island is a small state, and many nurses who work there regularly cross state lines. In the absence of the Compact program, Joseph D. Lento and his team can explain to you exactly what you need to do to qualify in the places you want to work and suggest useful strategies for moving from one position to another.
You can expect Joseph D. Lento and his team to stay abreast of new developments in the law. They keep track of proposed bills and monitor their movement through the Rhode Island legislature so that they can help you adapt to changes before they happen. They keep track of monthly Board meetings and can advise you as to how the politics of the industry shift and evolve.
They can also protect you should an accrediting agency decide to invalidate the nursing program where you trained. Healthcare boards sometimes call nurses' credentials into question in such instances. When that happens, you don't need a hard-nosed litigator to defend you in a hearing. You need a negotiator, someone who can work with both sides to help come up with a solution that lets you keep your license. Joseph D. Lento and his team have a track record of working with Board members. They know who to talk to when problems arise and what to say.
What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
Your nursing license means everything to you. It gives you the right to practice your profession. It certifies that you are qualified and experienced. It lets patients know that you can be trusted. If that license is being threatened in any way, you can't afford to take chances. You absolutely must do everything you can to defend yourself, and that starts with hiring the best legal representation you can.
Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional License Defense Team understand your situation. They've helped hundreds of health care and nursing professionals through similar situations. They know the law. They've studied it, and they keep up with how it continues to grow and evolve. And they know the licensing system in Rhode Island. If your license is under threat, don't wait. Begin building your defense now.