In 2021, the Kentucky Nurses Association estimated that the state had between 12-20% fewer nurses than it needed. It also estimated that this number would only grow as Kentucky faced several challenges going forward, including an aging nursing workforce and a feeling of burnout from working nurses due to the long shifts and lack of resources. Of course, Kentucky isn't alone in this battle; states are facing nursing shortages nationwide.
And given that nurses are a crucial piece of our healthcare system, providing the majority of hands-on patient care, it becomes equally essential we help the nurses we have work as efficiently and effectively as possible.
At the Lento Law Firm, we think that includes ensuring you have the resources you need if your nursing license should come under fire.
After all, navigating Kentucky's disciplinary process for nurses isn't easy, and with everything else you're facing in your job, it's no surprise if you're feeling intimate or overwhelmed. We understand, and we're here to help!
Our Professional License Defense Team has worked with nurses around the country, as well as doctors, pharmacists, and a variety of other professionals. We have both the experience and skills you need to defend your license and protect your career. We'll fight for your rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome, so if you've been accused of professional misconduct or wrongdoing, don't wait!
Call us today at (888) 535-3686 to discuss your case and talk about your options.
Laws And Regulations Governing Nurses In Kentucky
Nurses in Kentucky are regulated by the state's Board of Nursing (KBN or Board). This Board was established by the state's legislative body - the Kentucky General Assembly - and it is responsible for enforcing Kentucky's Nurse Practice Act (NPA).
The NPA is a collection of rules and guidelines that have been adopted (and adapted) by each state and territory to serve as the "blueprint" for regulating the nursing profession. The specific rules and procedures within the NPA can vary from state to state, but they all ensure that each jurisdiction has a board (or boards) to oversee the nursing profession and that it has the authority necessary to govern in accordance with the rules and regulations set out by the state's legislature.
This governance includes different types of oversight, such as the initial verification of credentials, the issuance and management of nursing licenses, and, yes, handling complaints of professional misconduct and wrongdoing. Should you find yourself the focus of such a complaint, the Board has both the responsibility and authority to investigate the claim and enforce any discipline, if necessary.
Ultimately, the goal of the Board is to protect the public by ensuring that nurses are held to the highest standards of care; the NPA outlines how this goal will be met.
The individual state boards also created a national agency to facilitate collaboration and provide additional support and oversight of the nursing profession. This agency - the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) - is a not-for-profit organization that includes the Boards from all 50 states, as well as Washington DC and four US territories. The Boards use this organization as a collective counsel to both establish guidance on current issues affecting public health and also continue the development of nursing education and licensing resources.
Are All Nursing Licenses at Risk?
Yes! All nursing designations are governed by the Nurse Practice Act and the Kentucky Board of Nursing. This includes the three basic nursing designations:
In addition, the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) provides for four advanced practices as part of the APRN designation. These also fall under the authority of the KBN and the Nurse Practice Act and require additional certification:
- Certified nurse practitioner
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist
- Certified nurse midwife
- Clinical nurse specialist
Also, remember that while all these designations fall under the NPA, there are multiple regulations and statutes that could apply, depending upon the specific practice.
Making sure you're aware of all the rules and regulations that relate to your specific nursing designation will help you protect your license and your career.
What Types Of Allegations Could Put Your Nursing License In Jeopardy?
Like all medical professionals, nurses are expected to maintain a high level of professionalism and competency. In fact, the General Assembly wrote this professionalism into the state's NPA:
"Each nurse is individually responsible and accountable for their individual acts based upon the nurse's education and experience. Each nurse must exercise professional and prudent judgment in determining whether the performance of a given act is within the scope of practice for which the nurse is both licensed and clinically competent to perform."
It's no surprise then, that the Board would take violations of this code of conduct very seriously. And while the list of those violations is broad, most infractions can fall into one of the following categories:
- Obtaining a nursing license, credential, education credit, or practice privilege in a fraudulent or deceitful way
- Patient abuse, including sexual contact while the person is under the nurse's care
- Mistreating a patient or failing to provide proper care
- Substance abuse, including alcohol, controlled substances, illegal substances, and prescription drugs
- Demonstrating behavior or actions that suggest the nurse is unfit to practice or incompetent
- Falsifying records or failing to properly document records
- License suspension, revocation, or other form of professional discipline from another jurisdiction for an action that would be considered a violation under the Kentucky NPA.
- Issues of theft and fraud
- Certain criminal convictions - both felony and misdemeanor - can jeopardize your nursing license, too, especially convictions for acts that are related to the practice of nursing.
You could also find your license under scrutiny because your educational facility committed a violation of the NPA. In 2023, for example, the US Department of Health and Human Services launched an investigation into several now-closed Florida nursing schools for a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing credentials. Sadly, the nurses that received those credentials were initially caught up in the investigation, regardless of whether they had participated in the scheme or not.
It is also illegal to know of a violation and not report it. Kentucky has a mandatory reporting rule that requires "any nurse, employer of nurses, or any person having knowledge of facts" to report a potential violation. This includes other healthcare professionals, the organizations you work for, as well as your peers and co-workers.
That means that knowing about a violation and not reporting it can also put your nursing license at risk, even if you weren't involved in the incident. And - equally important - it's not just your patients that can file a complaint against you. Anyone can make a formal complaint if they have direct knowledge. And by law, they are required to.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Nurses in Kentucky?
All complaints are made to the KBN. If the Board determines that the complaint requires further examination, you will be notified in writing, and you will have thirty (30) days to respond.
NOTE: The Board relies on you to keep your records updated. Your Notice of Complaint letter will be sent to the current address on file with the KBN - along with your Official Response Form - and this constitutes service. Make sure that the KBN has your current mailing information to avoid missing any important communication or deadlines.
Also note that you are expected to cooperate fully throughout this process, including responding in a timely manner and providing any pertinent information as needed. Failure to provide this cooperation could constitute a violation on its own and put your nursing license in jeopardy.
Unless circumstances call for more immediate and decisive action, you will be able to continue working without restriction while the Board investigates the complaint, provided that your license is current and you are not already under disciplinary action.
This investigation is kept confidential until it has been fully resolved; however, an interested party (such as an employer) can contact the Board to confirm an investigation is in process. Parties can also request that the Board notify them of the outcome.
Once the Board has completed its investigation, there are four possible outcomes:
- The Board can conclude the complaint is without merit and close the matter.
- The Board can conclude the complaint has merit but does not warrant any formal action. In this instance, a Letter of Concern is sent to the licensed nurse. These letters do not constitute disciplinary action.
- The Board can conclude the complaint has merit but is minor or the action wasn't intentional. In these instances, the Board will offer the licensed nurse a Consent Decree option. Here, you can waive the hearing and agree to pay a civil penalty. You may also be required to take additional education or training classes. A Consent Decree is considered an informal disciplinary action.
- The Board can conclude the complaint has merit and requires discipline. Here, the Board can offer an Agreed Order, which requires you to admit the violation and agree to the terms of the Order, much like a plea deal in a criminal case. An Agreed Order is considered a formal disciplinary action.
When a Complaint Requires a Formal Hearing
There are two instances where a case may require a formal hearing:
The first is when the licensed nurse does not respond to the initial complaint (or refuses to cooperate with the investigation). The second scenario is when the licensed nurse does not accept the proposed resolution, be it paying a fine or agreeing to a Consent Decree or Agreed Order.
In both instances, the case can proceed to a formal hearing, and here, things can become much more complex.
Formal hearings are held before a Hearings Panel (consisting of two Board members) and the Hearing Officer (a member of the KBN executive team). Formal charges are filed, and you are no longer referred to as the "licensee" in the proceedings; you are now the "Respondent," and the Board becomes the "Petitioner."
In this case, you will receive a Notice of Hearing and Statement of Charges, and again, this will be sent to your address of record. You will have twenty (20) days to file a response to this Notice, and if you don't, a Default Judgment will be entered in favor of the Board.
That means that your license could be suspended or revoked based solely on your failure to respond.
Also note that if you are found guilty of even one charge in a formal hearing, you will be required to pay a list of legal fees and expenses. This would be in addition to any civil penalties (fines) you are ordered to pay, and civil penalties can be up to $10,000.
You should also note that while the Board has the burden of proof, they only need to show a preponderance of the evidence - a low-level standard of proof that asks if the Board's version of the facts is more likely true than yours. It's a relatively easy burden to meet, and given that the Board has access to a full legal team, you can bet they'll be well-prepared when the hearing begins.
Should the outcome of the hearing not be in your favor, your next step would be to file an appeal with the Jefferson County Circuit Court. This appeal will need to be filed within thirty (30) days of the Final Order from your hearing.
Obviously, having an experienced Professional License Defense Team in your corner is the best way to navigate a formal hearing and protect your Kentucky nursing license. Our office can act as your counsel during these hearings and, in many cases, even help you avoid them altogether. Contacting our office is the first step to reclaiming some control in the disciplinary process and defending your professional reputation.
What Disciplinary Actions Can the Kentucky Board of Nursing Take?
The Board has several disciplinary options against nurses found guilty of professional misconduct or wrongdoing:
● A reprimand is an official admonishment of the actions and behaviors and often comes with a monetary fine and the requirement of additional training. They may or may not limit your ability to continue your practice as a nurse.
- A limited license (or probation) will allow you to continue practicing but under restricted conditions. These may include working under supervision, limitations on administering medications, and other functional restrictions. You may also be required to report regularly to the Board and undergo additional treatment, testing, or training programs.
- A license suspension means that you will not be able to continue working as a nurse for a certain amount of time. This may be for a specific number of days/weeks/months, or it may be dependent on your completion of certain training or treatment programs.
- A license revocation means that you have lost the ability to practice nursing. This revocation can be for a specific amount of time, after which you can reapply, or it can be a permanent revocation, in which case reapplication is not permitted. If you are allowed to reapply, you will have to retake the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and meet any other current competency/licensing requirements.
- You may also be allowed to voluntarily surrender your license, with the understanding that you can reinstate it after meeting certain requirements dictated by the Board. There is also a permanent surrender option, and reinstatement would not be allowed in this case.
These actions are available to the Board regardless of whether the complaint is in its initial investigation phase or it has progressed to the formal hearing stage.
Also, understand that the Board does not have to agree to reinstatement when you make the application. If the Board feels that you have not completed the stipulated requirements, or if it feels you are still not competent to begin practicing as a nurse again, it can deny your application for reinstatement.
Can the Kentucky Board of Nursing Suspend a License Without a Hearing?
In some cases, yes. Although this is not the normal disciplinary practice, there are instances where immediate action is necessary.
Under Section 314.089 of Kentucky's Revised Statutes, the Board can recommend immediate suspension of a nurse's license without prior notice or hearing, if the Board's President feels that there is an ongoing danger to the public health.
In this case, the Executive Director of the Board will issue an emergency order, and the suspension will remain in place until 1) it is successfully appealed or 2) the complaint that prompted the emergency order is resolved.
The Board may also suspend your license (and deny reinstatement) if the Attorney General requests such action due to a violation of a court-order child support commitment. See Section 205.712 (11) for additional information.
Can a Suspension of a Nurse License in Kentucky Affect a Multistate (Compact) Nursing License?
Kentucky is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, a multistate agreement sponsored by the NCSBN to allow nurses to move between member states and go where they are needed most without having to apply for a new state-issued license each time.
This Compact makes it easier for Kentucky nurses to enjoy expanded mobility and new practice opportunities, including travel and telemedicine services. And because of this compact, most states have agreed to adopt a "one for all" mentality when it comes to disciplinary action. In fact, the first requirement for a multistate license is to "meet the requirements for licensure in the home state (state of residency)." Another requirement is that the license holder is "eligible for or holds an active, unencumbered license (meaning no active discipline)." This ability to rely on the home state's credentialing process makes it easier to streamline the approval of a Compact nursing license.
It also means that a suspension or revocation in Kentucky can affect your ability to practice in other Compact states because you'd no longer meet the requirements for the Compact nursing license.
And yes, even the states that aren't part of the Compact tend to frown upon disciplinary actions in other jurisdictions. Lose your license in Kentucky, and you may find that you can't obtain privileges in other states.
How Can I Verify My Nursing License Is in Good Standing?
There are two ways to look up nursing credentials in Kentucky.
The KBN has established an online portal called the Optimal Regulatory Board System (ORBS), and this system contains all licenses issued and managed by the Board, including provisional licenses, temporary work permits, and State Registered Nurse Aides (SRNA) Certifications.
You can also check your credentials using the national Nursys database. Managed by the NCSBN and its member nursing boards, this database provides both licensing verification, as well as confirmation of disciplinary actions and practice privileges.
Can a Revoked License Be Reinstated?
While the reasons a nursing license might be revoked can vary, the KBN also understands that not all violations are equal in severity. Furthermore, the Board knows that people can change, and a poor decision made in the past shouldn't necessarily follow you for the rest of your life.
So, in some cases, yes - a reinstatement is possible. You will have to meet all the requirements of the revocation order (or Consent Order) before the Board will approve your application, and even then, it will likely be a lengthy and challenging process.
You'll essentially need to prove your ability and commitment to do better. You're no longer a danger to your patients, you've successfully completed a substance abuse program, or you've acquired the additional training that will help you provide better care. Whatever the circumstances, your application for reinstatement needs to impress upon the Board just how far you've come.
And that makes having an experienced defense team on your side even more crucial now.
Remember, you've already been proven guilty. Where the original hearing for misconduct required the Board to prove allegations, this process will require you to prove why you're ready to start practicing again. It's a difficult battle and one that you don't want to pursue alone.
Fortunately, the Lento Law Firm Team has the experience you need. We can help you negotiate a reinstatement, so you can start practicing medicine again.
Steps to Make Your Nurse License "Legally Defensible"
A legally defensible license means that you've taken strategic steps to protect and enhance your license so that it's harder to discredit. You've participated in well-recognized training and educational programs, for example, and your charts and records are well-kept and thoroughly documented. In fact, everything about your nursing practice is documented so that there's no question about instructions or procedures, or processes.
The NCSBN's enhanced nursing exams are a good example of this kind of "next-level" nursing. These exams are designed to help nurses "think more critically and make the right decisions." The organization also provides several online resources to help you deal with common challenges and situations.
This kind of attention to detail and excellence tells the Board that you value your credentials and that your competency as a nurse is above reproach.
It tells the Board you take your career seriously. And you'll do whatever you need to do to defend it.
Should I Sign a Consent Order?
As mentioned earlier, the Kentucky Board of Nursing can offer two different kinds of "deals" or agreements to licensees as a means of carrying out disciplinary action. Both the Consent Decree and the Agreed Order are legally binding contracts between you and the KBN. Both include your admission to some form of misconduct or wrongdoing (even if it was accidental or unintentional), and both require that you agree to accept whatever disciplinary actions the Board has laid out as a result.
In some cases, this type of mutual agreement may be your best course of action… but here's what you need to know before you sign.
These agreements also specifically include a waiver of your right to a hearing, as well as any due process rights that you would normally be entitled to. They also become a part of your permanent nursing record, and because the Agreed Order is a formal disciplinary action, it is a public record. That means it will be reported to both the NCSBN and the other state boards. Sign this agreement, and it could seriously affect your ability to practice under a multistate license.
This is why it's so important to have an attorney who has experience defending against nursing disciplinary actions. You need someone who not only understands the process but also knows how to craft a defense and negotiate on your behalf.
The Lento Law Firm Team can give you that experience and help you negotiate the best possible outcome. Call us today; we're ready to help you defend your nursing practice.
This Is Why You Need a Kentucky Nursing License Defense Team
It's no secret that defending a nursing license can be a lengthy and complex task. And the longer you wait to address the issue, the worse it's going to get!
The good news is you don't have to do this on your own. Our law firm has the experience you need to prepare a proper defense for every stage of the disciplinary process. Some of the ways we can help include:
- Filing responses to the complaint on your behalf
- Gathering evidence and witnesses to support your case
- Negotiating for a dismissal of the complaint or a reduction in the charges
- Negotiating for lesser penalties in disciplinary actions
- Representing you in all interactions with the Board, the Hearings Officer, and the Hearings Panel
- Negotiating the best possible terms of a Consent Decree or Agreed Order
- Defending you at a formal hearing, if necessary
- Handling your appeal in the Circuit Court, if required
Remember, the sooner you take action, the better your outcome. It's important to know that your Professional License Defense Team is working on your behalf every step of the way.
What Areas Does the Lento Law Firm Serve?
The Lento Law Firm Team works with nurses across the country - in both rural and urban populations - and we can help you, too, regardless of your location or employer.
That includes larger hospitals in metropolitan areas, such as the Baptist Health facilities in Louisville and Lexington, as well as the mid-size and smaller facilities, like the Bluegrass Community Hospital in Versailles, Breckenridge Memorial Hospital in Hardinsburg, and the Jennie Stuart Medical Center in Hopkinsville.
From Bowling Green to Danville, Lyndon to Edgewood, Guthrie to Blaine… the Lento Law Firm Team is here to help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm to Protect Your Nursing License
You already know how hard you've worked to get where you are. Becoming a nurse in Kentucky isn't an easy feat; don't let it slip away because you're not sure how to handle a complaint.
That's our job!
Let us work to defend your Kentucky nursing license. The Lento Law Firm Team understands the disciplinary process, and we know how to navigate all the legalese and procedures along the way. We will work tirelessly to protect your license and your future as a nurse.
You just have to take the next step!