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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Ohio Nurses: Things To Consider If You Receive a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing from the Ohio Board of Nursing

Last week, I attended the Ohio Board of Nursing’s bi-monthly meeting where the members of the Board issued final sanctions against dozens of Ohio nurses.  At that meeting, the members of the Board also authorized the issuance of over sixty Notices of Opportunity for Hearing to Ohio licensed nurses.  The Notice of Opportunity for Hearing (or Notice of Automatic Suspension or Notice of Immediate Suspension) outlines specific charges against the nurse, which, if proven, can form the basis for the nurse to have their license revoked, suspended, placed on probation or reprimanded.

There are legal timelines that must be followed for a nurse to request a Hearing in order to defend their professional license.  Failure to timely request a Hearing can bar the nurse from presenting ANY defense to the Board.

There is no routine disciplinary matter when it comes to a nurse’s professional license.  Disciplinary sanctions imposed by the Board may affect a nurse’s ability to practice nursing in the short-term and can also impose permanent practice and/or narcotic restrictions.

If you receive a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing (or Notice of Automatic Suspension or Notice of Immediate Suspension), it is highly recommended to obtain experienced legal counsel to assist you before the Board.  When hiring legal counsel, here are a few things to consider:

EXPERIENCE:

  • Does the attorney have experience with the type of matter for which you need representation?
  • Is this type of matter a usual part of the attorney’s practice?
  • Has the attorney handled any cases similar to your particular matter?
  • If it is a matter where a settlement or hearing may be involved, how many of those matters has the attorney handled?
  • In general for this type of matter, what does the attorney consider to be a good result?
  • Can the attorney explain the process to you?

ACCESS:

  • What is the best way to communicate with the lawyer and how will he or she communicate with you?
  • When can you expect to hear from the attorney?
  • Are there other people in the attorney’s office who can assist you should an emergency arise while your attorney is unavailable?
  • How will you know what work the attorney has done or will be doing on your matter?

COMPATIBILITY:

  • Will you be comfortable sharing your information with the attorney?
  • Do you understand the information the attorney is telling you?
  • Are there different approaches to your situation, and if so, how will the attorney decide which to take or recommend to you?

FEES:

  • How does the attorney charge you?  Based on hours worked?  Fixed fee?  Or some other method?
  • Is payment required up front?  If so, how and when is that money applied to your account?
  • Will you receive statements for the work performed?
  • Will you be charged for expenses (ex:  travel, hotel, postage, copy charges)?
  • Does the attorney accept credit card payments?

This is a general guide and is not legal advice.  Of course, there may be other questions or concerns you may want to discuss with a potential attorney based on your individual circumstances or issues.

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.

 

 

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.

What is a Nursing Board Consent Agreement?

Under the Ohio Nurse Practice Act, R.C. 4723.28, the Nursing Board can deny, revoke, suspend, reprimand, impose a fine or place limitations on a nursing license.

To take disciplinary action against a nurse, the Nursing Board first must  charge the nurse with violating some provision of the Ohio Nurse Practice Act. Notice is usually provided to the nurse in a citation letter, entitled, “Notice of Opportunity for Hearing.”  The Notice letter outlines the alleged misconduct (the basis for the action), specifies the section of the Nurse Practice Act that the nurse has allegedly violated, and provides the nurse with an opportunity to request a hearing before the Nursing Board concerning the allegations.

However, in some instances, the Nursing Board will send a nurse a document called a “Consent Agreement” without issuing a Notice.  The Consent Agreement is a contract between the nurse and the Nursing Board in which the nurse agrees that the specified violations of the Nurse Practice Act occurred, agrees to accept a specified discipline, and waives his or her right to a hearing. While signing a Consent Agreement may be the best route for the nurse, there are issues that should be considered before entering into a Consent Agreement with the Nursing Board.

A Consent Agreement is a formal disciplinary action of the Nursing Board and is a public document under the Ohio Public Records law (R.C. 149). As a public record, the Nursing Board must make the document available to the public and may post the actual agreement on their website. The Board will also list the name of the nurse and the discipline imposed in the Board ‘s quarterly Momentum magazine in the Disciplinary Actions section.

Negotiating the terms and condition of the Consent Agreement can result in changes and/or clarifications.  As with any legal, binding agreement, prior to signing the Consent Agreement, it is recommended to have it reviewed by experienced legal counsel so that you clearly understand what you are agreeing to in the document.

In addition, even after you complete any discipline imposed by the Consent Agreement, the Consent Agreement will always remain as a part of your professional record with the Nursing Board. Unlike some criminal cases, there is no way to seal or expunge a disciplinary action taken by the Nursing Board. Therefore,  it is important that you understand and agree to all the terms in the Consent Agreement and that the Consent Agreement accurately reflects the facts in your case.

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

How to request a hearing with the Ohio Board of Nursing

On November 20-22, 2013, the Ohio Board of Nursing met for its bi-monthly meeting. At that meeting, the Board voted to issue Notices of Opportunity for Hearing to over 80 nurses in Ohio.  The Notices either proposed to take a disciplinary action against a nurse for an alleged violation or Automatically or Immediately suspended certain nurses’  licenses based on an alleged violation of the Board’s laws and rules.  If you received a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing or a Notice of Suspension  from the Nursing Board, there are important deadlines, which if missed, can have significant consequences.

First, whether the allegations in the Notice are true or not, in order to preserve your right to a hearing, you must request a hearing in writing. The Notice contains instructions on how to request a hearing. It is imperative that you request a hearing in writing within 30 days of the mailing of the Notice to you (not from the date you receive the Notice)  If you do not request a hearing in writing within such period you will be prevented from providing any information or evidence on your behalf.   In the request for the hearing, you simply need to state “I am writing to request a hearing.”  It is also a good idea to follow-up with the Board via phone to ensure that they received your request for a hearing within the required time frame.

Then, you should consider hiring experienced legal counsel to defend you before the Board. The Nursing Board is represented by the Office of the Ohio Attorney General and also employs several in-house enforcement attorneys. In addition, all hearings are held before attorney hearing examiners. So, if you choose to represent yourself at a hearing, you may be the only non-attorney who participates in the hearing process. It’s your professional license at stake. It is important to find experienced counsel to assist in your defense.  Check out earlier posts where I provide guidance on how to hire experienced legal counsel to assist you.

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

 

Nursing Board disciplinary actions are public and posted on the Board’s website

I am often asked by nurses, if a disciplinary action taken by the Nursing Board against their license will be available to the public. The answer is Yes.  Under the Ohio Public Records law, R.C. 149.43, any official action taken by a governmental agency is a public record. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43

What does this mean? Prior to the internet, to obtain a public record from a governmental agency a written request for the document was required. You can still do that today.  Now, however, all Nursing Board disciplinary actions are posted on the Nursing Board’s website and are also listed in the back of the quarterly magazine Momentum, that is issued by the Nursing Board and mailed or emailed to every nurse in the state. http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/Publications.htm

To see what is listed about you or another nurse on the Board’s website, interested persons can go to the link on the Nursing Board’s website to obtain information about a particular licensee, enter their name and they will be presented with a summary list of any discipline against that nurse.  A person can click on the “view documents” box (which is in bright yellow) and download the entire disciplinary record (copies of Citation letters, Consent Agreements, Adjudication Orders or any Court appeals documents).  To find information go to: https://license.ohio.gov/lookup/default.asp?division=86

Now, certainly any information about a medical diagnosis or medical condition that might have formed the basis of a disciplinary action is redacted and not included in the public record?  Sorry, that is not true. The documents are not redacted. All the information, including any medical diagnosis, criminal conviction, boundary violation, the factual and legal basis for the action and the disciplinary action taken against the licensee is all included in the public record on the Nursing Board’s website.

As a follow-up question, I am often asked whether the disciplinary action is taken off the website and out of the public record once the licensee completes any suspension or probation period? Unfortunately, no. Once a disciplinary action is taken, it is on the professionals’ “permanent record” and will not be sealed, removed or redacted.

The argument given for including all disciplinary actions of the Nursing Board in the public record is that consumers should be able to know if their medical professional has been the subject of discipline by the Nursing Board.

However, only proposed disciplinary actions and final actions (be it a Consent Agreement or Adjudication Order) are made public. Complaints submitted to the Nursing  Board and any Board investigations are confidential. Under the Nurse Practice Act, R.C. 4723.28 (I)(1) investigations of the Nursing Board are confidential and are not open for public disclosure. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4723.28  However, this restriction  also pertains to the licensee and their legal counsel. When a complaint is filed with the Nursing Board, the licensee may be notified of the general nature of the complaint, but they will not be provided with a copy of the complaint or even given the name of the person who filed the complaint.  This rule however does not prevent the Nursing Board from sharing any part of their investigation with other governmental agencies, such as a police department or another Board.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or would like me to address a particular question, feel free to email me at Beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.

Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses

In Ohio, nurses who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction or abuse should immediately seek treatment at an authorized chemical dependency treatment facility.  However, nurses are often concerned about voluntarily seeking treatment because they do not know what effect, if any, treatment will have on their nursing license.

Fortunately, for Ohio nurses, the Ohio Board of Nursing has established the Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses.  This is a confidential program that allows eligible nurses to enter into a monitoring contract with the Nursing Board. Under the contract, the nurse is required to complete the recommendations of a treatment program, completely abstain from drugs and alcohol and submit to random drug screens generally for a period of five years.     A full outline of the program can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6

Not all impaired nurses are eligible for the program. To be eligible, a nurse must hold a valid Ohio nursing license, submit an application for enrollment in the Board’s confidential program, submit to a chemical dependency assessment, and then follow all treatment recommendations. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-02 Eligible nurses may be required to place their nursing license on inactive status for six months at the beginning of treatment and they will be required to submit to random drug screens and attend weekly AA or NA meetings for five years.  This may seem like a long period of time to submit to monitoring, a chemically impaired nurse, is permitted to return to the practice of nursing while participating in the confidential program after six months of clean screens.

What can make a nurse ineligible for the program?  Nurses who are prescribed controlled substances by their physicians; who have a dual diagnosis with another medical or psychiatric condition; or who have completed drug and alcohol treatment two or more times in the past, may not be eligible for this program. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-02

The Alternative Program is confidential. If you are accepted, your participation will not be considered “discipline” by the Nursing Board. There will be no notation on the Board’s website that you are participating in the program and you will not be listed in the Nursing Board’s Momentum publication as a participant in this program. In addition, if you successfully complete the program, you will not be reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank . http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-04

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.