As a professionally licensed nurse in Utah, you have survived the academic and emotional rigors of nursing school, clinical rotations, and internships. You've worked long, chaotic shifts, missed meals, and let your personal life take a backseat to your patients and dreams. Your countless sacrifices over the years matter. They have made you both the person and the professional you are today. However, when mistakes or misunderstandings place your Utah nursing license at risk of being denied, revoked, or suspended, you may feel as though your world is crashing around you. While challenging allegations from the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing may feel like an uphill battle, legal protections are in place. Led by Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento, The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is equipped to stand up to DOPL.
The Nursing Profession In Utah
According to a 2020 study conducted by the Workforce Research and Analysis Division of Utah's Department of Workforce Services, by the end of 2018, there were a total of 34,396 licensed registered nurses within the State of Utah.
Many Utah nurses are employed at large hospitals like the University of Utah Hospital, the State's only academic health system. Other hospital employment settings include Intermountain Medical Centre, Utah Valley Hospital, and McKay Dee Hospital, to name a few. Utah nurses are also employed in a variety of other settings, such as in offices or clinics and at state-run facilities. Popular employment settings also include campuses and public health positions.
In addition, Utah nurses may also be employed in traveling or telehealth positions through the use of their multistate license (discussed further below).
Administrative Law and Your Utah Nursing License
As a nurse in Utah, it is crucial for you to understand the laws and agencies that govern your profession and protect your ability to work, absent professional misconduct. Administrative law is an area of law that provides a legal framework for a variety of governmental agencies in Utah, including the Utah Department of Professional Licensing (“DOPL”). Due to various administrative laws adopted into state law, DOPL has the authority to enforce rules and regulations that both regulate the nursing profession in Utah and protect the public from the dangers of subpar nursing care. DOPL also has the authority to issue nursing licenses and oversees disciplinary matters for licensed nurses, such as license revocation, suspension, and appeals.
Administrative law also ensures that Utah nurses have legal rights. Utah nurses facing disciplinary actions have the right to receive “due process” under the law. Due process is a fundamental concept granted to each United States Citizen in the United States Constitution. Due process guarantees individuals fair treatment, protection of their rights, and the opportunity to be “notified and heard” before being deprived of “life, liberty, or property.” Due process also ensures that individuals are not subject to any “arbitrary or capricious” (impulsive) actions by the government or an administrative body, such as DOPL.
Applying due process concepts to nursing license revocation cases, Utah's administrative law framework mandates several safeguards for nurses, including:
Utah Nurses must be provided with adequate notice of the professional allegations against them and the professional consequences. The notice should be clear and concise enough so Utah nurses understand the nature of the allegations and can prepare an adequate defense. If any evidence is presented against them, Utah nurses have the right to review the information being used against them to identify any potential inconsistencies or errors.
Opportunity to Respond
Utah nurses have the right to present their side of the story and defend themselves against the allegations made against them. Your ability to defend yourself can come in many forms, such as a written or an oral statement, and the opportunity to present evidence, such as work files or drug tests. You also have the right to participate in a hearing on the matter and can choose to testify or call witnesses in this setting. Utah nurses have the right to be represented by legal counsel throughout this process. DOPL must also provide a fair and impartial forum for nurses to make their case.
Utah Nurse Practice Act
Aside from the principles afforded to Utah Nurses under the United States and Utah State Constitutions, the primary legislation governing the Nursing profession in Utah is the Utah Nurse Practice Act (“UNPA”) contained within Title 58, Chapter 31b of the Utah State Code.
The UNPA includes several sections that address the disciplinary process for nurses in Utah, including groups for discipline as well as the policies and procedures the State's licensing board (DOPL) must follow throughout this disciplinary process.
The UNPA also addresses several issues unrelated to disciplinary policies, such as licensing requirements, the State's adoption of the State's Multistate Nursing License Compact, and continuing education requirements.
Utah's Division Of Occupational And Professional Licensing
DOPL is a Utah state agency responsible for regulating and licensing various professions in the State of Utah, such as architects, dentists, dieticians, mechanics, hunting guides, massage therapists, and nurses. DOPL protects the public by investigating complaints against licensed professionals and taking disciplinary action when necessary to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.
The Interstate Nursing Compact and Your eNLC License
The Interstate Nursing Compact, also known as the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (“eNLC,”) is an agreement between participating states that allows nurses to practice in any participating state under a uniform multistate license. According to a 2023 update by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 40 states currently participate in the compact, including Arkansas. States that do not participate in the compact include Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Minnesota, Illinois, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The eNLC is governed by the Board of Nursing, an administrative agency that monitors and oversees disciplinary action against all nurses with an eNLC license.
The eNLC was signed into Utah Law in 1998 by Governor Michael O. Leavitt. Utah's adoption of the eNLC is contained in Title 58, Chapter 312, Section 102 of the Utah State Code. Some benefits for Utah Nurses with an eNLC license include:
- Increased Employment Opportunities: The eNLC allows Utah nurses the ability to practice in Utah or the other 39 compact states, giving nurses a larger employment market across the United States. Some popular employment opportunities for nurses with an eNLC license include traveling nurse positions for nurses who wish to temporarily relocate or fill virtual positions such as research institutions or telehealth medicine.
- Hassle-Free Licensing: Utah nurses with an eNLC license only have to meet one set of uniform nursing requirements and do not need to worry about pursuing and meeting the various licensing requirements of the other 39 compact states if they wish to pursue job opportunities or relocate.
Do I Have To Comply With Utah State Law Even If I Am Licensed Under The eNLC?
Yes. Even though you may have an active eNLC license, you must comply with the laws, regulations, and practice requirements in whatever State you are providing patient care. Therefore, if you are a Utah nurse that provides care in your primary State of Utah but also has virtual or traveling positions in another compact state, you must comply with the practice standards of both states. If you are employed in a telehealth position, a good rule of thumb is to comply with the standards of the State in which your client is located.
How Do I Obtain An eNLC License?
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, if at the time you applied for your nursing license in Utah, you declared Utah (or any other compact state for that matter) as your ”primary State of residence and met the licensure requirements,” you should have automatically been issued both your Iowa state nursing license as well as your eNLC license.
Can I Lose My eNLC License?
Yes. Under Article III of the Board of Nursing Provisions, compact states can pursue disciplinary actions when a nurse violates that State's nursing practice act. Article V also allows states to revoke a nurse's ability to practice in their State even if the nurse is still under investigation or allowed to practice in other states. For example, even if you have complied with the Utah Nursing Standards but failed to meet adequate practice standards in a telehealth position in Arizona, your ability to practice nursing care in Arizona can be revoked. The Board of Nursing can also revoke your ability to practice in all compact states through the implementation of its disciplinary procedures.
If you are facing potential suspension or revocation of your ability to practice in one or all of the eNLC compact states, the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is well-versed in the requirements, procedures, and disciplinary steps of the eNLC. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form to tell us about your unique circumstances.
Conduct That May Place Your Utah Nursing License At Risk
Some allegations that could potentially place your Arkansas nursing license at risk are discussed below.
Professional misconduct is a term that encompasses a wide range of behaviors that violate professional standards required by the UNPA. Title 58, Chapter 31B, Section 502 of Utah's State Code discusses various types of behaviors and actions that constitute professional misconduct, some of which can include:
- Incompetent care when using technical equipment, caring for patients, conducting administrative work, etc.
- Unauthorized taking or personal use of a patient's personal property.
- Substance abuse
- Caring for patients or conducting work duties despite a physical or mental impairment that affects your ability to exercise proper judgment or perform certain skills.
- Failure to exercise appropriate supervision of other persons providing nursing care.
- Improperly delegating nursing care functions or procedures to those unfit to carry out the task or care for the patient.
- Fraud, such as falsifying personal records or patient records.
- Misuse of company or hospital property, such as using medical equipment for personal reasons.
- Breaching patient confidentiality standards.
- Improper sexual or romantic relationships with patients.
- Failing to report known or suspected professional misconduct of coworkers, supervisors, interns, etc.
Professional misconduct allegations, even if later declared unfounded, can damage your professional reputation and have severe consequences on your ability to seek future employment, gain promotions, etc. Although you may be found innocent, your career may still suffer because of the rumors and gossip. If your license is currently being threatened because of professional misconduct allegations, you should fight these allegations early and effectively. Contact our Professional License Defense Team today for more information on protecting your reputation.
Criminal Arrests, Charges, and Convictions
Criminal arrests, charges, and convictions can have serious implications on your nursing career in Utah. DOPL reviews each matter on a case-by-case basis but indicates in their guidelines on criminal conduct that licensed professionals or those seeking licensure must typically report the following types of criminal actions for review by the licensure board:
- Any misdemeanor occurring in any jurisdiction or State during the last 10 years.
- Any felony occurring in any jurisdiction at any point in time.
- Any “active or pending criminal action (including arrests).”
The agency goes on to clarify that all charges, pleas, and convictions must be reported, even if they were reduced or dismissed through a plea arrangement. While Utah does not require nurses to report minor traffic violations such as speeding tickets, you must report any DUI or DWI-related offenses.
DOPL stresses that they provide “individualized consideration” to every instance where criminal conduct may affect a professional's license. If you need help navigating how your criminal history may affect your ability to retain your Utah nursing license, contact our Professional License Defense Team today.
Criminal Conduct That May Not Affect Your Utah License
According to Title 58, Chapter 1, Section 501, Subsection 2 of the Utah State Code, DOPL may not consider the following types of criminal activity as evidence of unprofessional conduct warranting discipline:
- An arrest that is not followed by a conviction.
- A conviction that led to arrest; however, the late date of incarceration was more than seven years before DOPL's review. (This does not apply if the professional has violated any terms of probation or has since pled guilty to other charges).
- Certain criminal sexual acts are performed because of sexual exploitation.
- Certain forms of criminal fraud or embezzlement.
Standard of Care Violations
Because nurses are entrusted with the responsibility of saving lives, they are held to extremely high professional standards and must adhere to a high standard of care while caring for patients. Some examples of the standard of care violations may include:
- Medication errors, such as failing to administer medication or administering the wrong medication.
- Failure to follow proper protocols.
- Failure to apply proper techniques when caring for patients, such as when drawing blood, performing CPR, etc.
Ethical violations speak to your character and judgment. Because of their nature, some ethical violations may impede your ability to provide proper nursing care and treat patients fairly and respectfully. Some examples of ethical violations may include conflicts of interest, boundary violations, and engaging in improper relationships with patients.
Failure to comply with documentation requirements may also affect your license. Some examples of failure to comply with documentation issues may include failure to properly renew your license, inform the board about any name changes, failure to respond to audits from the board, or failure to follow proper documentation protocols when caring for patients.
Utah's Disciplinary Procedures and Processes
If you are being investigated by DOPL, you are owed due process rights under the law. As noted above, due process rights include the right to be notified about the allegations against you and the right to defend yourself by sharing helpful information and evidence in front of a neutral third-party decision-maker. DOPL adopts due process requirements in its disciplinary procedures by adhering to the processes discussed below.
The disciplinary process is triggered when DOPL receives a complaint against a Utah nurse. Complaints can be raised by colleagues, clients, patients, insurers, staff, and even supervisors. After receiving the complaint, the agency will notify you of the allegations against you and inform you of the next steps.
After receiving a complaint, DOPL investigates the claims against you. While some accusations may be true, many may be unfounded and grounded in bitterness, jealousy, or mere misunderstandings. If allegations are severe enough, it's not uncommon for an investigator to simply show up unannounced at your place of work and conduct an interview or ask to speak to any witnesses.
If the DOPL investigator feels that the evidence corroborates a possible violation of your license, then the agency will move forward with filing a formal complaint. If the investigator feels that the complaint was exaggerated or unfounded, they can drop the charges and close the initial investigation.
Consent Agreements and Other Retributory Options
In response to filing a formal complaint against you, DOPL may choose to offer you a consent agreement as an alternative to conducting a formal hearing. Consent agreements are essentially contracts and are legally binding documents. These agreements require you to admit liability and perform certain duties in exchange for maintaining your professional license. Typically, agencies require you to agree to complete programs or training that address the source of your misconduct, such as anger management courses and sexual harassment courses. Additional retributory options such as substance abuse counseling or a leave of absence may also be put in place as a precondition to returning to work.
An adjudication is a legal process used to resolve disputes between individuals and government agencies. In simple terms, an adjudication is almost like a “mini-trial” and consists of testimony, presentation of evidence, and arguments of law. Adjudications are also referred to as “hearings.”
At the hearing involving your nursing license, you will have the opportunity to present your side of the story in an attempt to convince the hearing officer as to why the claims should be dropped or your license suspended or revoked. After taking all of the evidence into consideration, a hearing officer will then make a “determination of guilt” and decide what disciplinary consequences you should face. Disciplinary consequences can range from license suspension or revocation to orders requiring you to complete certain requirements like continuing education units.
If you do not agree with the adjudicator's decision, you can file an appeal. The timelines and requirements for this appeal must be strictly adhered to. If you need help filing an appeal, contact our Professional License Defense Team today.
The Consequences Of Losing Your Utah Nursing License Or eLAC License
Losing your Utah nursing license can have drastic consequences on your professional and personal life. Not only can you lose your ability to earn an income, but your professional reputation may also suffer, making it incredibly hard to gain future employment. Losing your license may also lead to feelings of depression, loss, and anxiety, placing strain on your relationships. Lastly, without the satisfaction that comes from helping patients, you may feel directionless and lost, forcing you to redefine your sense of self.
Contact The Lento Law Firm For Help Protecting Your Utah Nursing License
If you are worried that you may lose your Arkansas nursing license or have already lost your license and want to pursue an appeal, we can help! Don't attempt to navigate the expansive Utah nursing laws alone. Led by Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento, the compassionate and experienced Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm understands the complexities that come with fighting DOPL allegations. We proudly represent nurses all over Utah, including nurses located in Salt Lake City, West Valley City, West Jordan, and more! Contact us today to discuss your case by calling 888-535-3686 or tell us about your case online.