TYPICALLY, A CONSENT AGREEMENT WHICH HAS BEEN SIGNED BY A NURSE AND THE OHIO BOARD OF NURSING IS FINAL AND GENERALLY WILL NOT BE MODIFIED

In our private practice of representing nurses before the Ohio Board of Nursing, we are often contacted by nurses who have entered into a Consent Agreement with the Nursing Board and who want to change the terms after the Consent Agreement has already been approved by the nurse and the Nursing Board.  Typically, however, a Consent Agreement which has been approved by the nurse and the Nursing Board is final and will not be renegotiated.

A Consent Agreement is a legally binding contract that a nurse may enter into with the Nursing Board to resolve a pending disciplinary matter.  For example, in some instances, a nurse will agree in the Consent Agreement to allow their license to be placed on suspension or on probation, and to be subject to various conditions, such as random drug screens or completion of CEUs in addition to CEUs required for license renewal.  The time to propose and negotiate changes to the Consent Agreement is before the Consent Agreement has been signed by the nurse and the Nursing Board.

While certain provisions in the Consent Agreement are considered by the Nursing Board to be non-negotiable, there are certain sections of the Consent Agreement which may be negotiated.  For example, information pertaining to completed treatment for impairment or other relevant evidence in support of the nurse’s defense may be negotiated to be included in the Consent Agreement.  Additionally, there are certain instances where the Board will negotiate the duration of a suspension or probation based on the evidence in the matter.

We are also contacted by nurses who have violated their Consent Agreement and want to attempt to negotiate more favorable or different terms with the Nursing Board.  Although there is a “standard” provision in most Consent Agreements permitting modification of the Consent Agreement upon the written agreement of the nurse and the Board, it is our general experience that the Nursing Board does not re-negotiate Consent Agreements.  For example, if a nurse is required to pay a $500 fine within 6 months of the Consent Agreement taking effect and the nurse fails to do so, it is our general experience that the Nursing Board will not agree to modify the terms of the Consent Agreement to require the nurse to pay a $250 fine instead. Similarly, if a nurse is required to submit to random drug screens for 1 year and tests positive for drugs – even on 1 screen – the Board will not modify the Consent Agreement to eliminate the random drug screening requirement.

Additionally, failure of a nurse to comply with the terms of the Consent Agreement generally results in the Nursing Board suspending the nurse’s license based on a violation of the Consent Agreement.  If the Board suspends the nurse’s license based on the nurse’s failure to comply with the terms of the Consent Agreement, the earliest the nurse could have their license reinstated would be at the Board meeting subsequent to the suspension, and, in certain instances, it can take longer.  In this regard, please note that the Nursing Board meets every other month.

Prior to entering into a Consent Agreement with the Nursing Board, it is important that you fully understand and agree to all terms and conditions of the Consent Agreement.  After the Consent Agreement is signed by the nurse and by the Nursing Board, the Consent Agreement is a legally binding contract between the nurse and the Nursing Board which is, generally, considered by the Nursing Board to be final and not subject to modification.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about 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.

 

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Ohio Nurses: Failure to Document May Result in Disciplinary Action Against Your Nursing License

The importance of documentation in the nursing field cannot be underestimated.

The Ohio Board of Nursing is authorized to discipline a licensee for (among other things) failure to practice in accordance with acceptable and prevailing standards of safe nursing care.  Failure to document the administration or otherwise account for the disposition of controlled substances that the Nurse removed from the Pyxis, or other place where controlled substances are stored, may also be the basis for the Nursing Board to discipline a nurse.

In certain cases, the Nursing Board will offer the Nurse a Consent Agreement as an alternative to an Administrative Hearing.  A Consent Agreement allows the Nurse to avoid the time, worry, and expense of an Administrative Hearing.  Nurses do not need to sign a Consent Agreement. It is always a good practice to read a proposed Consent Agreement very carefully.  We have seen Consent Agreements that are based on allegations of failure to document the administration or otherwise account for the disposition of controlled substances. In many cases, the Consent Agreement requires  (in some cases, lasting years)  random drug screening, narcotic restrictions, and practice restrictions, even when there was no history of drug use or abuse by the Nurse.

If the nurse does not sign a proposed Consent Agreement, he or she always has the right to go to an Administrative Hearing.  The nurse can present evidence that there is no history of drug use or abuse and that the nurse has an otherwise excellent history of employment.  The Board’s attorney is going to present its evidence that the nurse failed to document the administration or otherwise account for the disposition of controlled substances that were removed.

It is imperative to completely, accurately, and timely document the administration or disposition (waste) of controlled substances or other drugs! The Nursing Board may place a nurse on probation and subject them to multiple probationary terms, even if there is no evidence that they suffer from chemical dependency and even if there is no evidence of diversion.

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 Board of Nursing – Mandatory Disqualifying Offenses

Prior to going through the time, effort and expense of attending nursing school you should know if you are eligible to be licensed as a nurse if you have convicted of a crime.

Under Ohio Revised Code (“ORC”) Section 4723.092, there are certain offenses, for which individuals are ineligible for licensureORC Section 4723.092 provides:

“An individual is ineligible for licensure under section 4723.09 of the Revised Code or issuance of a certificate under section 4723.651, 4723.75, 4723.76, or 4723.85 of the Revised Code if a criminal records check conducted in accordance with section 4723.091 of the Revised Code indicates that the individual has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or had a judicial finding of guilt for either of the following:

(A) Violating section 2903.01, 2903.02, 2903.03, 2903.11, 2905.01, 2907.02, 2907.03, 2907.05, 2909.02, 2911.01, or 2911.11 of the Revised Code;

(B) Violating a law of another state, the United States, or another country that is substantially similar to a law described in division (A) of this section.”

Licensure under ORC Section 4723.09 applies to licensure by examination to practice as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse, or (ii) by endorsement to practice nursing as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.651 is a medication aide certificate.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.75 is a certificate to practice as a dialysis technician.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.76 is a certificate to practice as a dialysis technician intern.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.85 is a community health worker certificate.

An individual who has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or has a judicial finding of guilt for violation of any of the following offenses, or for violating a law of another state, the United States, or another country that is substantially similar to any of the following offences, is ineligible for licensure by examination or by endorsement to practice nursing as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse in Ohio, or for a medication aide certificate, a dialysis technician certificate, a dialysis technician intern certificate, or a community health worker certificate in Ohio:

ORC Sections:

2903.01 – Aggravated Murder

2903.02 – Murder

2903.03 – Voluntary Manslaughter

2903.11 – Felonious Assault

2905.01 – Kidnapping

2907.02 – Rape

2907.03 – Sexual Battery

2907.05 – Gross Sexual Imposition

2909.02 – Aggravated Arson

2911.01 – Aggravated Robbery

2911.11 – Aggravated Burglary

If you have been convicted of a crime that is Not on this list, you will still be required to disclose the conviction on  your application for licensure. The Nursing Board will review each application on a case by case basis and determine if you will be granted a license.

Even if you have been convicted of a crime NOT listed above, the Nursing Board may choose to deny you an Ohio nursing license or may issue you a license on probation or require you to submit to a period of random drug testing when first licensed. Unfortunately, the Nursing Board will not determine if your license will be denied or limited until you complete nursing school and submit an application. So, if you have a conviction on your record, you should carefully consider whether you want to attend nursing school.

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.

Be honest when filing an application or renewal with Ohio Board of Nursing

Honesty is always the best policy when working with the Ohio Board of Nursing.

Professionals should know that before submitting information to a licensing authority the information must be accurate. Whether it is submitting the responses on an initial application for a license, or answering the questions on the bi-annual renewal of a license, the responses must be truthful.

However, I am often asked, “how will the Board know if I answer a question on my renewal application or original application incorrectly?” We never know how the Board may be notified of a violation of their laws and rules. Complaints to the Nursing Board can be anonymous, and the complainant is immune from liability (absent a finding of bad faith in their report). This means that you can be reported to the Board without your knowledge and you will never been provided with a copy of the complaint or the name of the complainant. (O.R.C. 4723.28(H) and (I)(1))

You may have a neighbor, employer or co-worker file a complaint against you with the Board alleging that you had a DUI that you failed to disclose to the Board or violated a section of the Ohio Nurse Practice Act. If you have reported this infraction on your application and/or on your renewal, it goes a long way to possibly having the investigation closed with no disciplinary action. However, if the Board goes back and pulls your application or renewal form and finds that you failed to disclose this information to the Board, the Board has the authority under O.R.C. 4723.28(A) to take an action against your license for providing false or fraudulent information to the Board.

Even without a formal complaint, the Board has the authority to open its own investigation if it learns of a violation of the Nurse Practice Act. If a Board investigator reads a news article about a nurse who has been charged with a DUI or is admitted into a diversion program by the Court, these types of actions can lead the investigator to open an investigation against the nurse. (Please note, that the nurse does not need to self report convictions or violations to the Board until the time of renewal of the license. However, on the renewal application responses need to be truthful and accurate.)

So, when applying for a license or completing a renewal application never ask yourself,”how will the Board ever find out?” The question you should ask yourself is, “what is the right answer and how can I best provide that information to the Board.”

While I encourage nurses to be honest with the Board, I always encourage the nurse to seek experienced legal counsel to assist them if they have any questions about how to respond to specific questions or if they are called to attend a meeting with a Board investigator.

As always, if you have any questions about the Ohio Board of Nursing or this post, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis, Smiles and Collis at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

How to request a hearing with the Ohio Board of Nursing

I have posted about requesting a hearing with the Nursing Board in the past, but this information is so important to Ohio licensed nurses that I thought it was important to run this post again.

The Ohio Board of Nursing meets six times per year for regularly scheduled Board meetings. At these Board meetings, the Members of the Board vote to initiate disciplinary actions against a nurse. This can result in a nurse being issued a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, which outlines charges that have been brought against the nurse or can result in an Immediate Suspension or Automatic Suspension of a nursing license.  The Board met last week (January 16-17, 2014) and issued dozens of notices to nurses throughout the state.

Nurses who are subject to a potential disciplinary action by the Nursing Board will receive the Notice of Opportunity for Hearing or Notice of Immediate or Automatic Suspension of their licenses by certified U.S. mail. If you are issued a Notice, you have thirty (30) days from the date the Notice is MAILED to request a hearing. Failing to request a hearing within thirty (30) days will bar the nurse from being able to present any defense of his/her license to the Board.

To request a hearing with the Nursing Board, you simply need to submit a request in writing to the Board that states: “I am writing to request a hearing with the Ohio Board of Nursing”. The request should be submitted as instructed in the Notice. I also recommend that you call the Board a few days after you submit the request to verify that it was received.

You do not have to submit a written explanation or defense to the Board when you request the hearing. This type of information can be submitted to the Board after the hearing is scheduled. After the Board receives the hearing request, you will be sent a letter scheduling the hearing with the Board.

In many cases, nurses are able to negotiate a settlement agreement with the Board that will avoid them having to proceed to a hearing. This agreement, known as a Consent Agreement, is a binding agreement between the nurse and the Board that provides an opportunity for the nurse to present mitigating information and sets forth the discipline taken against the nurse. However, even if the nurse wants to attempt to negotiate a Consent Agreement with the Board, they still MUST first request a hearing as outlined above.

Nurses are not required to have an attorney to help them through the Board’s disciplinary process. However, whether the nurse goes to hearing or negotiates a Consent Agreement, the Board will be represented by an attorney or by an Assistant Attorney General who will be assigned to the case. So, I always advise that the nurse seek experienced legal counsel to represent them before the Board. You worked hard for your nursing license. You should work just as hard to defend yourself before the Board.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to contact me at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

If you received a Notice for Opportunity for Hearing .. request a hearing

On Friday, July 27, the Ohio Board of Nursing held its bi-monthly meeting. At that meeting, the Board voted to take disciplinary action against dozens of nurses in the state of Ohio. Nurses who face discipline by the Board will be mailed a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, Notice of Summary Suspension or Notice of Automatic Suspension of their nursing license by certified mail.  This is not a final decision by the Board.  These Notices outline the charges that the Board has alleged against you.

If you receive notification from the post office that you have a certified letter from the Nursing Board, immediately go to the post office and collect the letter as there are important time sensitive deadlines which, if not met, can have a permanent effect on your license.

If you want the Board to hear “your side of the story” you must request a hearing in writing to request a hearing by the deadline in the Notice. This can be done by following the instructions in the Notice. A request for a hearing is a simple letter sent to the Board stating that you would like a hearing. You do not need to list your defenses or reasons why you want a hearing. You simply need to state in the letter that you would like a hearing.

You only have thirty (30) days from the date the Notice was MAILED to you to request a hearing.  The 30 day time frame starts on the date that the letter was mailed to you and not on the date that you received the letter. Failure to request a hearing will prevent you from providing any evidence on your behalf to the Board.

I am often asked “why should I even request a hearing … the Board has already made a determination.” This is not correct.  These Notices only list allegations raised against you.  While the Board has conducted an investigation prior to issuing the Notice, in most cases they have only considered one side of the evidence. By requesting a hearing you will be able to present your side of the story.

Even in cases where the nurse has violated the Ohio Nurse Practice Act, by presenting your side of the story and explaining what challenges you faced or what you were thinking when the error occurred, you increase the chances of getting a lighter sanction from the Board than if you simply do not even request a hearing.

You worked hard for your nursing license. There are always two sides to any story. If you receive a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, a Notice of Summary Suspension, or a Notice of Immediate Suspension, request a hearing within the deadline and make sure the Board hears your side of the story before they make a final determination.

You should also consider hiring experienced legal counsel to defend you before the Nursing Board. When considering how to hire an attorney, check out my previous post on “How to Hire an Attorney”.  Your livelihood depends on you finding experienced legal counsel that you trust to help in your defense.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to contact me at (614) 486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

What to Consider When Hiring an Attorney

When facing a disciplinary action before your state licensing board or when looking for assistance in applying for a license, it is important to find the right attorney to help you through this often cumbersome process. To make an informed decision, you should set an appointment and meet with the attorney in person to gauge the following:

Experience/Expertise: Experience in representing nurses before the Ohio Board of Nursing is a very important factor to consider. It is your professional license that is at stake. While you may have a good friend who is an attorney or a good professional relationship with a criminal defense counsel, often they do not have the experience or expertise to handle your defense before the Ohio Board of Nursing. In addition, many attorneys will claim to represent licensees before your licensing board. However, you should ask them what percentage of their practice is in the area of licensure defense. You also want to determine how many cases they have taken through the hearing process and on appeal. You don’t want your case to be the first case they have taken to a board hearing.

Personality/Compatibility/Accessibility: Meet and interview the attorney before you decide to hire them. Do they seem knowledgeable about the investigative or disciplinary process? Did they take the time to meet with you, answer your questions and explain the disciplinary process to you? Do you think the attorney understands your individual circumstances? Do you feel welcome to pick up the phone or to email the attorney with questions and concerns?

Costs/Accounting of fees: You should have a frank discussion with your attorney and make sure you understand their fees and how the fees are to be paid. Does the firm take credit cards? Do they charge late fees or interest on late balances? Does the firm send you a monthly statement that outlines the time spent on your case that month and any fees/expenses charged to you? If you deposit money in the firm’s IOLTA trust account are you sent a monthly accounting of your money on retainer? Before entering into any relationship with an attorney you should have a clear understanding of their fees and should receive a regular accounting of any fees or expenses for which you will be charged.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at: beth@collislaw.com