How a DUI may affect your Ohio nursing license

Happy New Year!

Over this holiday weekend, I have received calls from several health care professionals who have been charged with a DUI inquiring how or whether a criminal charge may affect their license to practice as a nurse in Ohio.

First, it is important to understand that the Ohio Nursing Board may take a disciplinary action against a nurse for certain criminal convictions, even if the charge does not relate to the practice of nursing. Second, it is important to understand that a DUI is not considered a “minor traffic violation”.  A DUI, even if reduced to a lesser offense, such as disorderly conduct or reckless operation of a vehicle, is still of concern to the Nursing Board and may result in a sanction to the nurse’s professional license.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should seek competent legal counsel to assist you through the criminal case process.  In certain instances, you may be accepted into a treatment program which, if successfully completed, may result in no criminal conviction or the charges may be reduced to a less serious offense.

A conviction for a DUI or certain other criminal offenses may result in negative consequences for your professional license.  While you are not required to immediately notify the Ohio Nursing Board that you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you may need to disclose the criminal matter when you renew your professional license, depending on the matter.  At the time you renew your license, you should consider hiring legal counsel to assist you to accurately respond to the questions on the renewal application and to prepare any documents necessary or required by the renewal application.

The way in which the Ohio Nursing Board handles your criminal case will depend on a variety of factors.  In determining what sanction, if any, that the Ohio Nursing Board might impose, the Ohio Nursing Board will consider factors including but not limited to the following:

  • the seriousness of the matter;
  • whether the matter relates to your professional practice;
  • whether the matter is your first criminal matter; and
  • whether you fully cooperate and complete any requirements of the Court.

Depending on the circumstances of your matter, the Ohio Nursing Board can order the nurse to submit to a chemical dependency assessment to determine if treatment is needed and/or can require the nurse to submit to a period of random drug testing.  Additionally,  the Ohio Nursing Board has the authority to suspend a nurse’s license and/or can place the nurse on probation.

If you need treatment, you should obtain comprehensive treatment. The Ohio Nursing Board does not maintain an approved list of treatment providers.  The nurse may choose any treatment center that will provide them with the treatment needed for their addiction.

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

Licensed Practical Nurses: Your Ohio Nursing License Renewal Period Ended October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016 was the deadline for a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to renew their Ohio LPN nursing license with the Ohio Board of Nursing.

If you are an LPN who did not renew your Ohio LPN nursing license by the October 31, 2016 deadline, your Ohio LPN nursing license is now lapsed. You may check the status of your license at the following link:

https://elicense.ohio.gov/OH_HomePage

As long as your Ohio LPN nursing license is lapsed, you are not authorized to practice nursing in Ohio. The Ohio Board of Nursing can take a disciplinary action against a LPN for engaging in the practice of nursing in Ohio having failed to renew their Ohio LPN nursing license.

If your Ohio LPN nursing license has lapsed and you want to be authorized to work as an LPN in Ohio, you must submit an online application to reinstate your Ohio LPN nursing license, which will require Ohio Board of Nursing review.

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.

OHIO LPNs – It is time to renew your license to practice nursing in Ohio!

According to the Ohio Board of Nursing’s website, starting on July 1, 2016, all Ohio LPNs will be able to renew their professional license online.

Important renewal information from the Nursing Board is located at: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/PDFS/2Renewal_Momentum.pdf

Often, nurses have questions about how to respond to certain questions on the Renewal Application and what information needs to be provided to the Nursing Board in the Renewal Application.

Nurses are required to provide the Nursing Board with truthful and accurate information on their Renewal Applications.  Failure to do so can lead to discipline by the Nursing Board.

Additional Information May Be Required  (from Ohio Board of Nursing website)
• If you are asked to provide court documents or other information that may be required as part of your application, please be prepared to upload the documents electronically through the online system.  This information is usually required of applicants who answer “yes” to one of the additional information questions on the renewal application.  
• No hardcopies of court documents or other information required as part of your application will be accepted. Waiting until a deadline and then realizing you do not have all the information and in the form needed to upload the documents electronically through the online system will prevent you from renewing. 
• Incomplete renewal applications will not be accepted by the system.  If all required documents are not provided electronically, the renewal application is incomplete.

If you have questions concerning how to respond to questions in your Renewal Application, what information you need to include, and/or what Court documents you need to include with your Renewal Application, it is recommended that you obtain experienced legal counsel to help you complete your Renewal Application.

The attorneys at the Collis Law Group offer a 1-2 hour consultation to meet with a nurse, review all relevant Court documents, and assist the nurse prepare any necessary or required  response to a question on a Renewal Application.  In most cases, we offer this consultation for as low as a flat fee of $500.00.  Feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group at 614-486-3909 to schedule a Renewal Application consultation.

As always, if you have any questions 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 by phone at 614-486-3909.  For more information about the Nursing Board, please feel free to visit our website at www.collislaw.com.

Although legal in other states, nurses have been disciplined for testing positive for marijuana in Ohio

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form.  Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Some states allow residents to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to even grow up to six plants.  While there have been various marijuana initiatives in Ohio, to-date it is illegal to possess, sell, or cultivate marijuana in Ohio.

Historically, the Ohio Board of Nursing has taken a strong position against marijuana usage.  For example, where a positive test for marijuana in an employment drug screen is reported to the Board, the Board routinely places the nurse on probation for a period of at least one year, which typically includes random drug testing and can include narcotics as well as practice restrictions.

Even if a nurse has traveled outside of Ohio and consumed or smoked marijuana in a State where it is legal, if the nurse returns to Ohio and is reported to the Board for a positive drug screen, the nurse should expect to be subjected to discipline by the Board.

In our practice, we have seen nurses reported to the Board because they failed pre-employment drug tests who were subjected to discipline including at least one year random drug testing.  A nurse does not have to be actively practicing nursing in order be found by the Board to be impaired. By simply testing positive for marijuana, a nurse can be subjected to discipline.  Employers are required by law to report to the Board any suspected violation of the Ohio Nurse Practice Act.

Before you consider using marijuana on your next trip to Colorado or Washington, realize that if you test positive on a drug screen – even weeks later when you return to Ohio – you should anticipate that you will be reported to the Board and subjected to discipline.

As always, if you have any questions about this post of the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909.

 

What To Look for in a Defense Attorney

I am always surprised to hear from nurses that they hired a lawyer who is not responsive to phone calls or emails in a timely manner, confused the nurse’s matter with other clients, failed to keep the nurse informed of the status of their matter, or failed to provide the nurse with a monthly accounting of legal fees and expenses. However, I am most surprised to hear from nurses who tell me that they hired a lawyer who they do not feel comfortable confiding in.

I am often asked what skills, qualifications, and qualities a nurse should look for when selecting legal representation for a matter involving the Ohio Board of Nursing (or any other State licensing Board).  Because Administrative Law is a rather unique area of the law, it is important to consider the following:

Not All Cases Are The Same: It is important to select defense counsel who you feel comfortable confiding in, and who recognizes that each matter is different and can present to the Board the unique circumstances of your particular matter with passion and commitment.

Understanding: An attorney who understands and presents your matter to the Board in a clear and coherent manner is also an important aspect of the representation.

Responsiveness: Selecting an attorney who is responsive to your phone calls and emails, and who timely communicates with you concerning important information about your matter is critical to the client-counsel relationship.

Sound Legal Advice: An attorney who provides sensible options based on their knowledge of nursing laws and rules and administrative law procedure, is an essential element to the handling of your matter.

Experience: Hiring an attorney who has handled multiple matters before your licensing Board from the initial investigation through the administrative hearing process is of paramount consideration.

When selecting legal counsel for your Ohio Board of Nursing matter, please remember the acronym N-U-R-S-E.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please 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 Disciplinary Process…What to expect

A nurse alleged to have violated the Ohio Board of Nursing’s (“Nursing Board”) laws or rules is subject to discipline by the Nursing Board.  Actions for which a nurse can be disciplined can be found here: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4723.28v1.  This article is a general guideline to the Nursing Board’s disciplinary process.

Stage One – Complaint

Any member of the public is permitted to file a Complaint with the Nursing Board.  Additionally, under Ohio Revised Code §4723.34(A), an employer of nurses who knows or has reason to believe that a current or former nurse employee engaged in conduct that would be grounds for disciplinary action by the Nursing Board must report to the Nursing Board the name of such current or former employee.  The Nursing Board’s Complaint form can be found here: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/PDFS/Forms/2011ElecComplaintForm.pdf.  Generally, the Complaint includes the identification of the Complainant, the nurse at issue, and the allegations of the conduct at issue.

Stage Two – Board Investigation

Following the Nursing Board’s receipt of a Complaint, the Complaint is assigned to one of the Nursing Board’s Investigators (also called a Compliance Agent).  Typically, the Investigator will speak with and/or obtain documents regarding the allegations in the Complaint from the person who filed the Complaint.  In many instances, the Investigator will also contact the nurse at issue either by phone or email and request to speak with the nurse about the allegations in the Complaint or request that the nurse provide a written explanation of the allegations in the Complaint.  Generally, a nurse’s participation in the Board’s investigation is voluntary.  It is recommended to obtain legal counsel before speaking with or responding in writing to an Investigator, however, after consulting with legal counsel, there are circumstances when it is recommended to cooperate with the Investigator to the extent that it is in the best interest of the nurse to do so.

Stage Three – Notice

Following the Investigation, the Nursing Board’s Supervising Member reviews the matter and decides whether to not proceed with disciplinary action against the nurse.  A decision not to proceed with disciplinary action can be made because there is not sufficient evidence to prove that a violation of Nursing Board law or rule has occurred or, although there is evidence to prove that a violation of a Nursing Board law or rule occurred, the Nursing Board nevertheless determines that such violation is a “minor violation”.  The Nursing Board’s policy concerning minor violations can be found here: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/PDFS/Discipline/BoardPolMinorVio4723.pdf.  If the Supervising Member decides to proceed with disciplinary action, a written Notice of Opportunity for Hearing (or Notice of Suspension) is issued to the nurse in which the nurse is given the opportunity to request and have an Administrative Hearing in connection with the allegations in the Notice.  The time frame (typically 30 days) and manner (typically in writing or email) in which the nurse may request a Hearing is set forth in the Notice.  If the nurse does not request a Hearing either timely or in the manner set forth in the Notice, the nurse will be deemed to have waived their rights to a Hearing and the Nursing Board has authority to impose discipline it deems appropriate without further input from the nurse.

Stage Four – Consent Agreement

In certain cases, the Nursing Board will offer a Consent Agreement to the nurse instead of having the Hearing.  A Consent Agreement is a written agreement between the Nursing Board and the nurse specifying certain admissions by the nurse and detailing the discipline to be imposed upon the nurse.  Consent Agreements have a broad range of discipline including reprimand, probation, and/or suspension, and have disciplinary requirements including but not limited to fines, CEUs, background checks, employer reports, drug screens, dependency and/or psychological evaluations, treatment provider and medication reports, and temporary or permanent practice and/or narcotic restrictions.  It is recommended to obtain legal counsel before signing a Consent Agreement so that the nurse understands their rights, the terms and conditions of the Consent Agreement, and (although no two cases are identical) whether or not the discipline in the Consent Agreement is reasonably similar in scope to similarly situated cases.  At the Consent Agreement stage, there may also be some opportunity negotiate the terms and conditions of the Consent Agreement.

Stage Five – Hearing

If the Nursing Board does not offer a Consent Agreement or if the nurse does not accept a Consent Agreement offered by the Nursing Board, the matter will proceed to the Hearing.  At the Hearing, the Nursing Board is represented by an Ohio Assistant Attorney General who presents the Nursing Board’s evidence concerning the allegations in the Notice to a Hearing Examiner.  The nurse may either be represented by legal counsel or by themself and may present evidence refuting the allegations in the Notice, as well as evidence of the nurses good nursing practice and character either by their own testimony and/or through character witnesses and other documentary evidence.  The Hearing Examiner receives all evidence and prepares for the Nursing Board a written Report and Recommendation which outlines all the evidence received at the Hearing and recommends a discipline.

Stage Six – Board Meeting

The Report and Recommendation is considered by the full Nursing Board at a regularly scheduled Board Meeting.  The Nursing Board meets every other month and its 2016 schedule can be seen here: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/PDFS/2016-2018%20Meeting%20Schedule.pdf.  Typically, the nurse (and counsel, if represented) will present a statement to the Nursing Board in their support.  The Nursing Board has the authority to adopt the recommended discipline or it can reject the recommended discipline and order such discipline as it deems appropriate under the circumstances.  Although a nurse has the right to appeal the Nursing Board’s decision to the Court of Common Pleas, the Nursing Board’s decision can be overturned by the Court only where the Court determines that the Nursing Board’s decision was not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is not in accordance with law (See Ohio Revised Code §119.12(D)).

Conclusion – Know Your Rights

At each stage of the Nursing Board’s disciplinary process, a nurse has legal rights.  It is recommended to obtain legal counsel in Nursing Board disciplinary matters because failure to understand and/or exercise a nurse’s legal rights can result in unintended consequences some of which cannot be reversed.  Contact Collis Law Group LLC at (614) 486-3909 if we may of assistance to you in your Nursing Board matter.

The information in this article is general in nature and is not, nor intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. © 2016 Collis Law Group

46 Ohio nurses did not defend themselves?!

 

Yesterday, I attended the January meeting of the Ohio Board of Nursing.  On the morning agenda, the Members of Nursing Board voted to issue a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, Notice of Immediate Suspension, or Notice of Automatic Suspension to over 60 nurses.

Additionally, the Nursing Board voted to impose a final disciplinary sanction (suspension, revocation, or limitation) on over 100 nurses’ professional licenses in Ohio.  I was struck and saddened to learn that in 46 casesthe nurse failed to request a hearing and never introduced ANY evidence in their defense.

If a nurse fails to request a hearing, the Nursing Board is authorized to impose any sanction from dismissal of the case to permanent revocation of the nurse’s license.  If a nurse fails to request a hearing, the nurse may not submit any evidence in their defense.

It cannot be understated the positive effect that can result when a nurse presents “their side of the story”, explains what happened, and puts the Nursing Board’s allegations into context.  The Nursing Board members like to see that the nurse understands the gravity of the allegations, accepts responsibility (where warranted), and fights for their license.  In certain instances, where the nurse presents evidence rebutting or refuting the Nursing Board’s charges, the Nursing Board has been known to dismiss certain counts in the Notice or dismiss an entire case against the nurse.

At the meeting yesterday, based on mitigating evidence that was introduced in one case, the Nursing Board modified the recommendation of the Hearing Examiner from a 6 month suspension to no suspension and simply placed the nurse on probation.

As a nurse, you have worked hard for your professional license.  If you are notified by the Nursing Board that they propose to take an action against your license, request a hearing and defend yourself.  While you may represent yourself before the Nursing Board, please note that the Nursing Board will be represented by an attorney from the Office of the Ohio Attorney General who will prosecute the case on behalf of the Nursing Board.  It is recommended that you should also have experienced counsel to represent you in this stressful and difficult process.

If you have any questions about this blog 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.