Use of Social Media by Nurses in Ohio

The Ohio Board of Nursing’s (“OBN”) Fall 2018 edition of Momentum Magazine includes an interesting article concerning the use by nurses of social media.  The article addresses the American Nurses Association’s (“ANA”) Principles for Social Networking and the NurseSee: https://www.nursingworld.org/~4af4f2/globalassets/docs/ana/ethics/social-networking.pdf.

Although the ANA Principles provide useful guidance concerning the use by nurses of social media, nurses licensed in Ohio are required to observe the OBN’s laws and rules concerning use of social media which include, but are not limited to, the following:

OAC 4723-4-03(H) and 4723-4-04(H): These are OBN rules which provide in part that registered nurses and practical nurses licensed in Ohio shall not disseminate patient information for purposes other than patient care, or for otherwise fulfilling the nurse’s assigned job responsibilities, through social media, texting, emailing or any other form of communication.

These rules prohibit nurses licensed in Ohio from using social media, texting, emailing or any other form of communication to disseminate patient information for purposes other than patient care, or for otherwise fulfilling the nurse’s assigned job responsibilities.

OAC 4723-4-06(Q): This is an OBN rule which provides that, for purposes of OBN rules OAC 4723-4-06(I), (J), (K), (L), and (M), a nurse shall not use social media, texting, emailing, or other forms of communication with, or about a patient, for non-health care purposes or for purposes other than fulfilling the nurse’s assigned job responsibilities.

This rule prohibits a nurse licensed in Ohio from using social media, texting, emailing, or other forms of communication with, or about a patient, for non-health care purposes or for purposes other than fulfilling the nurse’s assigned job responsibilities, for purposes of the OBN’s requirements that a nurse licensed in Ohio:

-maintain professional boundaries;

-provide patient privacy and courtesy;

-not engage in behavior that causes, may cause, or may reasonably be interpreted as, physical, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse;

-not misappropriate a patient’s property;

-not engage in behavior for, or that may reasonably be interpreted as behavior for, personal gain at a patient’s expense;

-not engage in inappropriate involvement in, or that may reasonably be interpreted as inappropriate involvement in, a patient’s personal relationships or financial matters;

-not engage in sexual conduct with a patient;

-not engage in conduct in the course of practice that may reasonably be interpreted as sexual; and

-not engage in any verbal behavior that is, or may reasonably be interpreted as, seductive or sexually demeaning to a patient.

A nurse licensed in Ohio who is determined by the OBN to have failed to comply with any of these rules based on the improper use of social media, texting, emailing, or any other form of communication is subject to disciplinary action by the OBN.

As noted in the OBN article, “The use of social media carries with it much responsibility.  Please be aware of your responsibilities and professional obligations and how its use may impact you.”

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing, contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or go to our website at http://www.collislaw.com for more information.

 

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Nurses who enter into a Consent Agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing MUST complete all conditions OR negotiate terms to modify to the Agreement.

A Consent Agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing is a negotiated contract between the nurse and the Board that specifies the terms and conditions under which a nurse on probation may continue to practice as a nurse and/or seek reinstatement of their license, if suspended. By signing the Consent Agreement, the nurse agrees (among other things) to waive their right to a hearing and to comply with the terms in the Consent Agreement.

Failure to comply with the terms of the Consent Agreement can result in the Nursing Board automatically suspending a nurse’s license to practice in Ohio.

Typically, a Consent Agreement which includes a suspension will outline conditions for a nurse to seek reinstatement of their license or, for a Consent Agreement that includes probation, will place conditions on a nurse’s license. Often, nurses are subjected to random drug testing, are required to attend weekly AA/NA meetings, or complete additional continuing education courses. In some cases, a nurse may have a license limitation that does not allow them to work in certain settings or dispense medications.

Actions including, but not limited to, missing a mental health or chemical dependency examination, failure to check in daily for alcohol or drug screens, or failure to submit to a screen when selected are a few examples of a breach of the Consent Agreement.

Even when unemployed as a nurse, the nurse is still required to comply with the Consent Agreement. For Consent Agreements that include a probationary period, the nurse must actually work in a nursing position for the probation period to count down.

Compliance with a Consent Agreement can be time-consuming and costly. Nurses are often unable to afford the random screens or become frustrated with the lengthy probationary period, especially if they are not working as a nurse.

I am often contacted by nurses who want to stop compliance with the terms of their Consent Agreement because they can no longer afford the random screens or are no longer interested in completing all compliance terms.

A Consent Agreement is a negotiated contract between a nurse and the Nursing Board.  The nurse MUST negotiate alternative terms in writing with the Nursing Board. If the nurse simply stops complying with the Consent Agreement, without first negotiating a written amendment or modification to the Consent Agreement, their license will likely be automatically suspended by the Nursing Board for failure to comply with the Consent Agreement.

To seek an amendment or modification to the Consent Agreement, the nurse must be in full compliance with all probationary terms. Even if in full compliance, the Nursing Board may only agree to place the nurse’s license on indefinite suspension. And if the nurse wants to seek reinstatement of their license in the future, the nurse may be required to complete most if not all of the probationary terms again.

In summary, in order to cease having to comply with the terms and conditions of a Consent Agreement, the nurse must re-negotiate the terms of the Consent Agreement with the Nursing Board and must continue to comply with their Consent Agreement until the Nursing Board agrees in writing to the modified Consent Agreement.

All Consent Agreements must be approved by the full Board, which only meets six times a year. The nurse should expect that it could take up to 8 weeks before the Nursing Board will approve a new Consent Agreement or a modification to a Consent Agreement.  The nurse must continue to comply with their existing Consent Agreement until a new Consent Agreement or modification has been approved in writing by the Nursing Board.

Before making the decision on whether to stop complying with the terms of a Consent Agreement with the Board of Nursing, it is recommended to consult with an attorney. Factors such as the nurse’s financial condition and their desire to practice nursing in the future should be considered.

As always, if you have a question about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group, LLC at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

 

Ohio Nursing Board Investigations

A person may report to the Ohio Board of Nursing (“Nursing Board”) information the person has that appears to show a violation of a Nursing Board law or rule. The Nursing Board is required to investigate evidence that appears to show a violation of a Nursing Board law or rule.

The Nursing Board employs investigators who are located throughout Ohio. Each complaint received by the Board is assigned to an investigator. The investigator collects and reviews documents and interviews relevant parties.

In most instances, the investigator will also contact the nurse who is the subject of a complaint by phone, email, or correspondence and request the nurse to meet or speak with the investigator to address the concerns in a complaint or to give their “side of the story.”

In Ohio, a nurse’s participation in a Nursing Board investigation is voluntary, however, any information provided to the investigator may be used against the nurse in a Nursing Board disciplinary action.

Further, Ohio Revised Code Section 9.84 provides in part that a person who appears as a witness before any Nursing Board representative in an administrative investigation shall be permitted to be represented and advised by an attorney, and that the person shall be advised of the right to counsel before they are interrogated. We have seen printed on the back of a Nursing Board investigator’s business card the following statement:

“I have been advised by the OBN Agent that (i) I have the right to have an attorney present (per 9.84, ORC) and (ii) my interview is voluntary.”

However, in the stress of meeting with a Nursing Board investigator, a nurse might not take the time to read the card, and, even if they do read the card, they might feel uncomfortable requesting to postpone the meeting after they obtain legal counsel.

It is recommended to request and obtain legal counsel before speaking with or responding in writing to a Nursing Board investigator. Often, nurses are concerned that it will appear that they are hiding something or are uncooperative if they first obtain legal counsel. This is not the case. There are circumstances where it is advisable for a nurse and their legal counsel to meet with a Nursing Board investigator. Legal counsel can assist with protecting your rights, narrowing the issues, and providing guidance concerning the process.

It is also important to note that any information obtained by a Nursing Board investigator can be shared with local law enforcement if information is obtained that appears to show that a nurse has violated a criminal or other law outside of the Nursing Board’s jurisdiction.

As always, if you have a question about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.