Ohio LPNs experience difficulties renewing licenses with new online system

LPNs who are renewing their nursing licenses in Ohio this year are required by the Ohio Board of Nursing to renew online. The Ohio Board of Nursing will no longer accept paper renewal or initial licensure applications. All applications must be submitted online.

However, as WSYX Channel 6 Investigative Reporter Brooks Jarosz discovered, the new online application process has not been without problems. See Jarosz’s report: http://abc6onyourside.com/investigators/technical-problems-persist-for-nurses-license-renewal

In order to start the renewal process, each nurse should have received a letter from the Nursing Board with their Log In ID. If a nurse moved since their last renewal and has not updated their address with the Nursing Board, the nurse may not have received their Log In ID. In Ohio, nurses are required to maintain a current address with the Nursing Board. Nurses can update their address at the Nursing Board’s website. The Nursing Board will not accept emails or a letter advising of a new address.

There are 58,000 licensed LPNs in Ohio. Ohio LPN licenses which have not been renewed timely lapse on November 1, 2016. If you have not timely renewed your Ohio LPN license, you MAY NOT WORK ON AN EXPIRED OR LAPSED LICENSE.

Do not wait until the last minute to attempt to renew your license. After September 15, you will be charged a late fee in connection with your renewal application.

To check on the status of your license, visit the Nursing Board’s online license verification page at: https://elicense.ohio.gov/oh_verifylicense

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 email me at beth@collislaw.com.

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Ohio Nurses Under Probation May Not Be Able To Travel Outside of the United States Without Risking Disciplinary Action

If you are a nurse who is under disciplinary action with the Ohio Board of Nursing that requires you to submit to random drug testing, you may not be able to travel outside of the United States without risking disciplinary action.

Ohio nurses who are under probation with the Nursing Board are required to strictly comply with all terms and conditions imposed in their Consent Agreement or Adjudication Order.  While under probation, some nurses are subjected to:

  • random drug or alcohol screens;
  • AA or NA meetings; and/or
  • counseling with a chemical dependency or mental health professional.

Traditionally, when a nurse is subjected to random drug testing, they are required to notify FirstLab (the Nursing Board’s contracted screening provider) and their  Monitoring Agent at the Nursing Board if the nurse is going to travel so that an alternative screening site can be located for the nurse.  However, this notification alone DOES NOT EXCUSE THE NURSE FROM THE DRUG TESTING REQUIREMENT!

In some cases, nurses have requested to be excused from the random drug testing  requirement while on vacation.  In very limited instances in the past, the Nursing Board has excused nurses from the drug testing requirement.  However, these were extremely limited circumstances and compliance with all other probationary terms including abstinence was nevertheless requiredMore recently, the Board has denied requests to be excused from drug testing while on vacation.

If you are subjected to Nursing Board random screens, it is recommended that you first verify with FirstLab whether there is an approved testing site at your vacation destination (which also has weekend hours) prior to booking your vacation.  If no approved testing site is available, you may request to be released from random drug testing while on vacation. However, based on our recent experience, you should anticipate that the request may be denied.  If the Board denies your request, you may be subjected to discipline if you fail to provide a screen on a day you are selected to do so.

It is our understanding that FirstLab only has testing sites in the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii and that there are no FirstLab locations on cruise ships or outside of the U.S.

Merely notifying your Monitoring Agent of your vacation dates does not excuse or waive any of the requirements of your Consent Agreement or Board Order.  You must comply with all probationary terms while on vacation, unless you have been given specific written approval in advance by the Board.

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 Nurses: New way to update your address with the Nursing Board

Moved? Changed your Name? Manage your Nursing License/Certificate Online

As a nurse licensed to practice in Ohio, it is your responsibility to notify the Nursing Board of any changes to your address or your name.

Beginning July 1, 2016, all name and address changes must be performed on-line by accessing the Nursing Board’s new eLicense 3.0 licensure system. (Simply sending an email or letter to the Board with your new address will NOT be sufficient to update your address.)

Listed below are the steps to register as a new user on the Nursing Board’s eLicense 3.0 licensure system. This information was obtained on the Nursing Board’s website under the section “Forms and Applications.”

Failure to notify the Nursing Board of a change in name and/or address could cause an issue for a potential employer performing on-line licensure verification. By not updating your name and/or address, it could hinder the Nursing Board’s ability to provide you with written notification in a timely fashion.

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 us at Beth@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

Effective February 1, Nursing Board to reduce time limit for nurses to personally appear to defend

Despite efforts by Collis Law Group and others, the Ohio Board of Nursing recently voted to reduce the amount of time which may be given to legal counsel to present a disciplinary case to the Board after a nurse’s Administrative Hearing.

At the November 2015 Board meeting, the Board changed its rule governing the amount of time which may be given to legal counsel to summarize a case concerning a nurse facing discipline after an Administrative Hearing.

The Board’s old rule permitted the Board to give legal counsel not more than 10 minutes to summarize a disciplinary case at the time the Board considers what discipline it will impose.  The new rule, effective February 1, 2016, reduces the time allotment to not more than 7 minutes.

At the November 2015 Board meeting, Collis Law Group attorney, Todd Collis, advocated for all Ohio nurses by suggesting to the Board that reducing the time allotment was not in the best interest of Ohio nurses or the Board.

Collis argued that it is unreasonable to afford legal counsel only 7 minutes in which to summarize a case for the Board under circumstances where a nurse is facing potentially career-ending discipline.  Collis also observed that the reduction in the time allotment would not result in any meaningful time savings for the Board and that the reduction in the time allotment might be viewed as curtailing access to the Board at a critical moment in a nurse’s career and life.

Effective February 1, 2016, Ohio Administrative Code 4723-16-12(C) provides that legal counsel who address the Board shall be given not more than seven minutes in which to do so. While this rule may appear to be a minor change, when a nurse is defending their professional license, they should be given more than just seven minutes to personally appear before the Board Members prior to the Board issuing a final sanction against their professional license. (This rule does not limit the amount of time that the nurse may present his/her defense at an administrative hearing.)

If you have any questions about this post or 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.