Licensed Practical Nurses (sometimes known as Vocational Nurses) play an extremely important role in the US healthcare system. In many hospitals, clinics, and care facilities, they shoulder much of the burden of caring for patients and residents that would otherwise fall on already-overworked registered nurses and doctors. The significant contribution that LPNs and VNs make to health care means that they are in high demand across the country, which highlights the importance of keeping your LPN or VN license in the event an official complaint is ever registered against you.
The licensing process for LPNs and VNs will vary from state to state but generally is similar to the process for registered nurses (RNs). Each state regulates LPNs or VNs in its own way, but all states have education, practice, and testing requirements for a license to issue, and some have background check requirements as well. Each state also has procedures in place for investigating and resolving official complaints filed against LPNs or VNs, which tend to be identical to the procedures used for RNs.
What to Do if a Complaint Is Filed Against You
The most important thing you can do if you are an LPN or VN and are notified that someone has filed an official complaint against you is to take the matter seriously. Don't assume that it will go away on its own, and don't assume that if you simply explain things to your state's Board of Nursing (BON) or equivalent regulatory agency, the whole matter will just go away. It won't. Your state's BON is not there to protect you so much as it is there to protect the public, and the focus of the BON in any complaint situation is making sure that the public receives proper care from licensed nurses.
In most cases, the first thing you should do if a complaint is filed against you is to get help from an experienced professional license defense attorney, someone who understands how the BON will investigate the complaint, what the BON is likely to consider important in resolving it, what options there may be for you in terms of resolving it without a hearing, and how to defend your rights if the complaint results in charges that go to a hearing. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have that experience. Just as you have experience providing health care for patients, they have nationwide experience helping licensed health care providers protect their licenses.
What Kinds of Issues Can Result in a Complaint
Complaints against LPNs or VNs typically fall under one or more of the following categories:
- Practice-related issues that focus on the standard of care provided by the LPN or VN
- Drug-related issues that focus on whether the LPN or VN misused or abused drugs
- Boundary-violation issues that look to whether the LPN or VN took advantage of the nurse-patient relationship
- Sexual misconduct issues
- Fraud issues, such as overbilling or falsifying treatment reports for insurance purposes
- Physical or emotional abuse issues
- Criminal background issues, particularly in states where criminal background checks are a required part of the licensing process
State BONs typically do not concern themselves with personality issues, where the nurse and the patient just don't get along, or situations where the LPN or VN refuses a patient's demand for a certain course of treatment that the LPN or VN has not been authorized to provide.
The Complaint Investigation and Resolution Process
Once a complaint is filed against an LPN or VN with the state Board of Nursing (or equivalent agency), there are certain steps that will typically take place. They consist of (1) examining the complaint to make sure it is something the BON complaint process covers; (2) investigating the complaint; (3) deciding whether or not to issue formal charges as a result of the complaint and investigation; (4) possibly conducting a settlement conference with the LPN or VN to attempt to resolve the matter without a hearing; (5) if the matter cannot be settled, then conducting a formal administrative hearing at which a determination will be made as to whether the LPN or VN has violated nursing care laws or standards.
In unusual situations where the BON believes that a complaint is so serious that it warrants emergency relief, the BON may issue a temporary suspension of the LPN's or VN's license after the investigation phase and before the formal hearing takes place.
While decisions of the BON may typically be appealed to a state court, the court won't retry the hearing. Instead, the court will look at whether the BON made any errors during the hearing process or in the way it applied the law.
Potential Outcomes of the Complaint Process
State Boards of Nursing typically have a range of options at their disposal when dealing with complaints against LPNs and VNs. If the BON does not find in favor of the LPN or VN, the possible penalties can include (1) a formal written reprimand or censure that will be noted on the LPN's or VN's record; (2) referral to what is called an “alternative-to-discipline” program (typically for situations where there is substance abuse or where the LPN or VN will benefit from continuing education); (3) monetary fines; (4) restrictions on the LPN's or VN's ability to perform certain treatments or care functions; (5) license suspension or revocation.
Because decisions of a BON are matters of public record, even one of the lesser punishments is something that may appear on your record and can make it more difficult for you to get a job. (Though in many cases, assignment to an alternative-to-treatment program will not become public.)
If a Complaint Has Been Filed Against You, Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento for Help
Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have been helping nurses, and other healthcare professionals across the country defend their licenses for years. They understand the complaint investigation and resolution process and will work with you to gather the evidence needed to defend against the charges. They can negotiate on your behalf with the BON to dismiss or reduce the charges against you, and if the matter goes to a formal hearing, they will represent you at that hearing and help you defend your rights.
If you've been notified that a complaint has been filed against you, contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today at 888.535.3686, or through their online contact form. They serve clients nationwide, and understand how important your LPN or VN license is to you. The yare there to help you protect it.