The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team Can Help Protect Your Vermont Nursing License From Disciplinary Action
Being accused of a nursing license disciplinary charge in Vermont can be overwhelming, especially if you do not understand the charges against you. All professionals are held to specific ethical and professional standards, especially nurses who deal with life-and-death situations every day. As such, when a nurse is accused of violating one of these standards, the Vermont State Board of Nursing is keen to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thus, it is extremely important that you respond to any accusations in a timely - and accurate - manner, or you will run the risk of losing your nursing license.
The best way to ensure you are fully prepared to defend yourself is to work with an attorney-advisor who understands the pressures and stress you are under. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team have spent years helping professionals in a myriad of industries protect themselves from disciplinary actions like license suspension or revocation. Don't try to navigate this process alone; call the Lento Law Firm today for help.
Vermont State Board of Nursing License Proceedings
The Vermont State Board of Nursing oversees both the licensing and disciplinary processes for nurses working and residing in the state. The Board consists of six registered nurses (RN), two of which have to be licensed as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), two practical nurses (PN), and one nursing assistant (NA), as well as two members of the public who do not work in a health agency or facility.
When a nursing professional is accused of violating a regulation set by the state, the Board will review the issue and determine whether the nurse is responsible for the accused action and, if so, what kind of punishment they should impose. For instance, if an individual is accused of practicing nursing without a valid license, the Board can pursue a civil complaint with the Attorney General. The Attorney General can then seek a civil penalty against the individual, which could mean a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to a year, or both.
The rules and standards that govern the nursing profession can be difficult to review, making it hard for nurses to know what is expected of them. If you are accused of violating the rules but don't know what the rules are, you won't be able to effectively defend yourself if the matter proceeds to disciplinary action. Hiring Attorney-advisor Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will ensure you understand both the charges against you and the laws you allegedly violated. When you know what you are up against and what you are owed, you will be better able to defend your position.
Types of Nursing Licenses in Vermont
Vermont requires different types of nurses to have a license prior to practicing nursing in the state: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), and Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNA).
To receive an LNA, you must have graduated from a Nursing Assistant program, passed the Nurse Aide Assessment Program exam, and completed a criminal background check and fingerprinting. The initial application fee is $20 and must be renewed every two years for $55. If you have an LNA in another state, you can apply for a Vermont license if you have worked more than 50 days or 400 hours in the last two years in the prior state as an LNA.
Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses
Like LNAs, RNs and LPNs have the option to apply for a license through examination or by endorsement from a state they currently have a license in. The application fee by exam is $75, but by endorsement, it is $150. LPN and RN licenses also must be renewed every two years, which costs between $175-$190 and requires that the nurse has worked for at least 50 days or 400 hours in the last two years or 120 days or 960 hours in the last five years. Alternatively, LPNs and RNs can renew their license by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses in the last two years, holding a nationally recognized nursing certification, or having completed an original nursing program within the last five years.
Advanced Practicing Registered Nurse
Unlike nursing assistants, registered nurses, or licensed practical nurses, APRNs are nursing professionals who have pursued either a master's or doctoral degree in advanced nursing practices. Some examples include:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
- Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
To receive an APRN license for the first time, the applicant must complete a criminal background check and fingerprinting, have a valid RN license in Vermont of, a multistate RN license under the eNLC, and have a current national advanced practice specialty certification. This initial application costs $100 and must be renewed every two years for $125. To renew an APRN license, the applicant must have worked at least 50 days or 400 hours in the last two years as an APRN or 120 days or 960 hours in the last five years.
If you fail to renew any of these licenses on time, it will cause your license to default, and if you are caught practicing with a defaulted or invalid nursing license, you will not only face Board disciplinary proceedings but you could also face criminal punishment or civil penalties.
Nursing License Compact in Vermont
In 2022, Vermont joined the Enhanced Nursing License Compact (eNLC). The eNLC is a multistate licensing initiative that was created to improve licensing practices and renewals for nurses. The goal was to prevent confusion surrounding regulations and what is expected of the nursing profession in each state. This can be all the more difficult to discern for nurses who travel from state to state filling contract positions. The eNLC allows them to treat patients more easily by not having to waste time applying for licensure prior to starting their new contract. So far, the eNLC has been enacted in 40 states and territories. The only states that are not part of the eNLC are Connecticut, California, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and the Mariana Islands.
The eNLC created a standard for nursing licenses so that patients can have greater access to healthcare and reduce costs to hospitals, insurance companies, and patients. Unfortunately, critics of the eNLC believe it is robbing them of state revenue from single-state licenses. These critics also believe it will impact the growth of telemedicine and telenursing, affect patient confidentiality, and prohibit the state from properly overseeing disciplinary actions.
To combat the naysayers, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which created the eNLC, created Nursys and encouraged all nurses to sign up for it. Nursys is a notification system that allows nurses - and states - to keep track of nursing licenses, notifying them of when their licenses are up for renewal or if there is a complaint against them. It also helps the individual nursing boards implement and follow the disciplinary process for individual nurses. For instance, if a nurse is accused and found responsible for using a fraudulent nursing license, Nursys will allow them to review the license, discern the issue, and then initiate action against the nurse and their employer.
If you have a multistate license through the eNLC and are accused of violating the rules in Vermont, an attorney-advisor will ensure you are not subject to any unnecessary consequences that could affect your ability to work in other states where you are licensed.
What Types of Allegations Can Put a Nurse's License at Risk?
As we explained above, nurses are required to abide by certain professional and ethical standards while practicing nursing in Vermont. If someone alleges that a nurse has violated one of these rules or standards, the accused nurse can be disciplined. Often, disciplinary actions include restrictions or conditions being applied to your license, having the license suspended for a period of time, or revoked completely. Licenses that have been revoked are incredibly hard to have reinstated. So it is in your best interest to work with an attorney-advisor who can create a strategic and comprehensive defense on your behalf.
According to Vermont law, the following conduct is prohibited:
- Making or causing false, fraudulent, or forged statements to be made while trying to get a nursing license or renew one.
- Diverting or attempting to divert drugs, equipment, or supplies without permission.
- Acting in a way that is likely to deceive, harm, or defraud the public.
- Purposefully daily to file or record, or purposefully preventing a filing or recording from being made, or convincing another person not to file or record medical reports.
- Deceitfully submitting information or records to the Vermont State Board of Nursing.
- Leaving a nursing assignment without permission or proper personnel replacement.
- Failing to maintain patient confidentiality.
- Purposefully helping a health care provider practice medicine illegally in the state.
- Letting someone else use your name or license when you are not actually providing them with treatment.
- Not complying with the patient bill of rights in Vermont or any other regulation that oversees the nursing profession.
- Sexual misconduct or sexual contact with a patient, surrogate, or key third parties.
- Abusing or neglecting a patient or their family.
- Misappropriating patient - or their family's - property and personal items.
- Failing to report issues to the Board.
- Failing to safeguard a patient from incompetent healthcare.
If a nurse is found responsible for one of the above actions, they will be disciplined by the Board, but the conduct will not be referred for criminal or civil penalties. Criminal or civil penalties are available, though, for the following prohibited actions:
- Selling or fraudulently getting or creating a nursing degree, diploma, certification, or license, or helping someone else do so.
- Practicing nursing with a degree, diploma, registration, or license that was illegally obtained or issued under fraudulent representation.
- Practicing nursing without a license or with a license that is suspended or revoked.
- Using words, letters, or signs that imply you are registered or licensed when you are not.
- Providing nursing education without Board approval.
- Employing unlicensed individuals to practice nursing.
Exemptions to Nursing Statutes in Vermont
Vermont understands that there are times when people must practice nursing, and thus those instances are exempt from civil, criminal, or board penalties. If you are accused of violating any of the rules above, but the circumstances include one of the exemptions below, it could mean that you should not be subject to any punishment. Having an attorney-advisor in your corner to explain these defenses to you will ensure you are not being unfairly adjudicated.
Exemptions to the nursing statutes include:
- Giving help in the case of an emergency or disaster.
- Practicing nursing as part of your nursing education in a program that is Board approved.
- Practicing nursing while employed by the U.S. government while conducting their official duties.
- Practicing nursing in Vermont if licensed in another state and was required to accompany and care for their patient from another state while visiting Vermont. However, the nurse cannot practice for more than six months in Vermont under this exemption.
- Taking care of sick domestic help as long as employed primarily in a domestic capacity.
- Working in an attendant care services program.
- Practicing any other occupation or profession with a Vermont license.
- Taking care of sick individuals at a church or other religious denomination as long as the person does not say they are an RN, LPN, or LNA and is not practicing nursing.
- Being a licensed APRN in the U.S. or Canada at an athletic team that is visiting Vermont for a specific sporting event and the APRN is only treating coaches, members of the team, and staff of the sports team.
What is the Disciplinary Process for Vermont Nurses?
Vermont statutes require that anyone who notices a nursing violation report it to the Vermont State Board of Nursing. Once the complaint is received, they will launch a preliminary investigation to ensure there is enough support for the complaint. If they do find enough support for the complaint, they will notify the nurse in question of the accusations lodged against them and instruct them on the next steps.
Generally, the accused nurse will have an opportunity to hear the allegations against them, as well as mount a defense to these allegations, which includes presenting evidence and witness testimony to support their argument. At the end of the hearing, the Board will review the information presented and determine whether the nurse is indeed responsible for the alleged misconduct.
In instances where there is enough clear and convincing evidence to prove that the nurse did behave in the way the complaint described, they will determine what sanctions to impose. For cases of unprofessional conduct, the Board might place limits or conditions on the nurse's current license or their ability to renew it. The Board might also, depending on the severity of the misconduct, decide to suspend it for a certain period of time or revoke it outright.
Additionally, the Board is fully within its right to offer alternative programs to nurses and nursing assistants accused of professional practice issues which have substance use disorders. These alternative discipline programs are meant to protect the public's safety while also encouraging nurses to seek help without fear of consequences. To be eligible to join the Alternative Program, the nurse must:
- Have a valid license or be eligible to apply for one.
- Request to participate in the program.
- Not have any unresolved complaints or investigations against them unless the State Prosecuting Attorney has authorized their participation.
- Show that they are not practicing to the best of their ability because of substance use, and if it is not addressed, it could impact their ability to practice safely.
- Show that their condition is a type that can be treated successfully.
- And, if necessary, agree to a comprehensive assessment at their own expense from an approved provider.
Nurses cannot participate in this program if they:
- Have willfully, recklessly, or negligently harmed or endangered a patient.
- Are a danger to society.
- Have a history of not complying with treatment or remediation programs.
- Have attempted to hide an error in their practice or falsify records.
The alternative program participation is always confidential and can only be viewed by court order or when necessary to monitor the nurse's compliance with the program.
Why You Need a Nursing License Defense Attorney in Vermont
As we explained above, the Board will initially investigate the matter, but more often than not, the State lacks the resources to launch a full and comprehensive investigation. This means that they could miss something and bring charges that would have otherwise been dropped. Hiring an attorney-advisor will ensure this does not happen.
Attorney-advisor Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional Defense Team are well aware of the challenges nurses face when accused of violating the law. They also know that sometimes the state drops the ball on their hearing proceedings, and nurses are punished without real due process, which simply means that the state owes you certain rights - like the right to face your accuser, the right to defend yourself, and the right to counsel. If you do not receive those rights, your hearing proceedings are not sufficient, and whatever decision the Board makes is not accurate. Having Attorney-advisor Lento on your team will ensure the state upholds its side of the law.
The Nature of Vermont State Board of Nursing Charges
It is important to remember that any disciplinary action the Vermont State Board of Nursing imposes is not the same as a criminal and civil penalty. That is, it will have different consequences than a punishment that is imposed by the federal or state government. While there will be no imprisonment for a Board ruling, there could still be fines. Moreover, it is within the discretion of the Board to refer some complaints to law enforcement officials who may choose to pursue criminal or civil penalties.
If the Board refers a complaint to the police, it will affect more than just your nursing license - it could affect your freedom. This is why it is crucial to reach out to a competent and experienced attorney-advisor the moment you learn of the accusations against you. Attorney-advisor Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will review the accusations and determine if the Board is likely to refer the matter to law enforcement. If they believe the Board will, it changes their approach to your defense.
Though these possibilities are overwhelming, the reality is that the more information you have, the better prepared you can be for your disciplinary - and potentially court - proceedings.
How the Lento Law Firm Professional Licensing Defense Team Can Help
Getting accused of a Vermont State Board of Nursing rule violation can be incredibly scary, especially if it comes from out of nowhere. Hiring Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Professional Defense Team is the best way to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case.
Attorney-advisor Lento and his team know how hard it is to navigate these proceedings and will work tirelessly to make sure you are fully prepared to defend yourself. Not only will they review the matter and find evidence and witnesses to support your argument, but they will review the Board's procedures and ensure they are following them to the letter. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online. You do not have to navigate this process alone. We are here to help.