A nurse recently commented on one of my blogs, sharing his own professional struggle. He said his nurse practitioner (NP) license was suspended over 10 years ago after the state board of nursing (BON) “refused to accept proof that refuted the allegations” against him. His attorney recommended he take the suspension and put the matter behind him.
The nurse can’t find a job as an NP because of the suspension, and he’s unable to do any physically demanding work because of injuries he sustained while serving in the military. He feels as though the suspension is a punishment and that he was given the wrong advice.
This nurse’s situation is a difficult one. While he didn’t share many details, there are a few points I’d like to delve into.
The nursing board’s decision
BONs have the authority to administer and enforce the state’s nurse practice act. The board’s authority is broad and includes the power to discipline a nurse licensee for violations of the act or its rules. Any imposed discipline must be based on the evidence presented during a hearing or disciplinary conference. In addition, the discipline must be fair and reasonable; be reached consistent with due process protections; and cannot be an arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory decision.
The nurse didn’t explain why the BON refused to rule that his proof raised doubts about the allegations against him. However, possible reasons might include that the proof was not:
- Legally sufficient
- Applicable to the allegations
A BON’s decisions can be analyzed in an administrative review case filed in a state’s court system. As such, board decisions are not final. The court reviews the board’s decision, and if the decision isn’t in accordance with the above conditions, the case may be overturned or sent back to the board for a new hearing.
In this case, it’s unclear why the former NP didn’t take advantage of this legal option. It’s possible his attorney didn’t advise him of his right to file such a review, or his attorney’s opinion was that he would not win the case. Another possibility is that the attorney informed the former NP of this option, but he decided against it for his own reasons.
Since 10 years have passed since the license suspension, this option is most likely not available to the former NP now. (A judicial review must be filed within a specified time period after a board decision is made.) The NP should consult with an attorney (or nurse attorney) to determine if this option is still available.
Reinstatement of the NP’s nurse license
The NP’s second option is to determine if a reinstatement of his RN and NP licenses is possible. With help from an attorney, the former NP can petition the BON for the reinstatement.
Usually there is no time limit imposed on such a petition unless the board included a time frame within which he couldn’t petition for reinstatement.
This option assumes that the original grounds for suspension don’t bar licensure in the state. For example, some states prohibit licensure under any circumstances if a nurse is convicted of a sex crime and/or must register as a sex offender.
Before reinstatement is granted, a board often has prerequisites that must be met. Since it has been over 10 years since the suspension, the board would most likely require a refresher course in nursing. If CEs are required in his state for renewal or reinstatement, he would need to comply with those mandates as well.
In addition, depending on what the original ground for the suspension was, he might also be required to comply with clinical restrictions in his practice once the license is reinstated. For instance, he might not be able to practice in home care for a specified time.
Did the attorney give bad advice?
It’s impossible to know whether the attorney’s advice was erroneous or unethical due to many factors, not the least of which is the lack of details in the NP’s comment. However, there are legal options for him to consider. One would be to file a complaint with the state entity that licenses and disciplines attorneys. This route would also have to be taken with the help of a new attorney to ensure that his allegations against the original lawyer are factual and accurate and do not expose him to a case of defamation, for example.
If the entity determines that the advice was incorrect, the attorney can be disciplined. Disciplines can include censure and disbarment. The NP can also file a court case alleging legal malpractice. Again, this would have to be done with the guidance of an attorney (or nurse attorney).
However, because the attorney’s advice was given over 10 years ago, this might not be possible because of the statute of limitations.
What you can learn from this case
One of the most apparent lessons you can learn from this situation is the time that passed between the suspension of the former NP’s license and his comments on my blog.
I don’t know what transpired in the past 10 years, but his inaction in trying to rectify the suspension and possibly regain his NP license is a major hurdle in trying to do so now.
Moreover, if the NP’s original attorney gave him erroneous advice or was unethical in representing the former NP, the attorney has gone unchecked and has been allowed to continue to practice and represent other NPs for all these years without any discipline.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, be proactive in seeking recourse. Your livelihood is at stake. You may not prevail, but by taking no action, you stand to find yourself in a dismal situation with no end in sight.
Are you concerned about a disciplinary action imposed by the BON? Comment below and talk to your fellow nurses about this topic. Download the Nurse.com social networking app.