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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Nursing Board Consent Agreements Are Binding Contracts and Generally Can Not Be Changed

A Consent Agreement is a written contract between a nurse and the Ohio Board of Nursing. A Consent Agreement is a voluntary agreement that outlines the discipline that will be imposed against a nurse. A Consent Agreement is similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case. The nurse agrees to certain disciplinary conditions, in lieu of proceeding to an administrative hearing before the Board. By entering into the Consent Agreement, the nurse generally admits to certain misconduct and agrees to comply with certain disciplinary terms.

It is important to keep in mind that once you enter into a Consent Agreement, you are required to complete all terms. Depending on the specific language of the Consent Agreement, you can, in certain circumstances, request modifications to a Consent Agreement after a period of time. However, if the Consent Agreement does not specifically provide that the Consent Agreement may be modified, generally you cannot “get out” of or change the terms of the Consent Agreement.

In most cases, for the probationary period to toll, the nurse needs to work in a position where a nursing license is required. Consent Agreements typically always provide that any time that the nurse is not employed in a nursing position will not reduce the probation or monitoring period.

Generally, once you enter into the Consent Agreement, the only way to “get out” of the Agreement is to comply with its terms. Often nurses have “buyer’s remorse” when they enter into a Consent Agreement and after several months, they no longer want to comply with the terms of the Consent Agreement. However, in most cases, unless the nurse has complied with all the terms of the Consent Agreement the probationary period will not be lifted or modified.

Also, at the end of the probation period, the Consent Agreement does not automatically end. The nurse needs to affirmatively request to be released from all probationary terms of the Consent Agreement.

Consent Agreements are contracts entered into between the nurse and the Board of Nursing. As you may be subject to compliance terms for many months, years, or even indefinitely, it is imperative that you understand the terms of the Consent Agreement BEFORE you sign it.

You worked hard for your professional license. As I have said in previous posts, prior to entering into any agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing, it is important that you seek experienced legal counsel to assist and represent you.

As always, if you have any questions about this post, or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to contact at me (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

What do I do when contacted by a Nursing Board Investigator?

In my practice I receive calls each week from nervous and frightened nurses who have been contacted either by telephone or letter from a Nursing Board or even Pharmacy Board investigator.  The question I am always asked is:

Do I have to talk with the investigator?

First, never speak with investigators without competent legal counsel. Anything you tell an investigator can be used in a disciplinary action against you by your licensing board and/or by the police in a criminal investigation.

Depending on the facts in your case, sometimes I advise clients to speak with investigators or to provide a written statement to their licensing board regarding an alleged complaint. However, I never have my clients meet with investigators without legal counsel and I never allow my clients to submit written statement that I have not had a chance to review.

Also, don’t allow the investigator to set the timing for when you will respond to them. I am often contacted by nurses who have been contacted by an investigator from the Ohio Board of Nursing and advised that they need to meet with the investigator or submit a written statement to the investigator within 24 or 48 hours.  These deadlines or almost always negotiable. Do not allow the investigator to rush you into providing them with the statement until you have had a chance to meet with legal counsel.