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.

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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 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.

 

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.