The case of an Iowa nurse who adopted her former patient's baby highlights important issues that nurses and healthcare professionals around the country need to be aware of. Nurses and medical professionals who are accused of crossing the professional-patient boundary and violating a patient's right to privacy can face disciplinary action and are at risk of losing their jobs and professional licenses.
Winneshiek Medical Center fired nurse Miriam Simon for adopting the baby of a former patient she cared for in the hospital's obstetrics unit. After learning about the adoption, the Iowa Board of Nursing conducted an investigation into the matter and found that Simon “engaged in conversations” with the patient about whether or not she wanted to keep the baby or put him up for adoption, and that Simon actively tried to adopt the child.
The Board sanctioned Simon for violating Iowa's regulations pertaining to patient confidentiality and privacy and for violating the professional-patient boundary by “attempting to initiate an emotional, social, or business relationship with a patient for personal gain, regardless of the patient's consent.” The parties reached a settlement that requires Simon to complete a course on professional ethics and boundaries, and 30 hours of training on patient privacy.
Nurses Must Follow Behavior Guidelines Set by the State
State Boards of Nurses (BONs) throughout the country regulate nurses' conduct by determining best practices and establishing rules and minimum standards of care nurses must follow. Generally, BONs issue regulations that focus on properly administering medication; prohibiting sexual misconduct, fraud, and abuse; and maintaining the professional-patient boundary.
Nurses can get in trouble for violating that boundary by engaging in behavior such as sharing secrets with patients; dating a patient or former patient; showing favoritism to one patient over others; and flirting with or and discussing personal information with patients. Whether or not a patient consents to this behavior may not be a mitigating factor because of the patient's vulnerability in the nurse-patient relationship.
Nurses Accused of Violating the Professional-Patient Boundary Risk Losing Their Jobs, Licenses, and Livelihoods
Failure to follow state guidelines on patient privacy, confidentiality, and patient boundaries can result in serious consequences for nurses, including job loss, formal reprimand, sanctions, fines, license suspension, and even license revocation – all of which can damage nurses' professional reputations and limit their future job opportunities.
In addition, nurses can't work without their licenses, so license suspension or revocation can have devastating consequences for their income and ability to earn a living.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help Nurses Who Face Misconduct Allegations
Nurses and healthcare professionals who face disciplinary action by their state licensing board should not try to handle the situation alone. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm offers professional license defense services to nurses and medical professionals around the country. The Team has years of experience successfully representing nurses and other medical professionals in front of state licensing boards, at hearings, and at all stages of the investigatory process. They can help nurses and other healthcare professionals protect their jobs, licenses, and their ability to earn a living. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.