Brian, during his 21 years of practice, has assisted medical professionals with many types of issues within the employment context, including disciplinary and licensing matters. Nurses, particularly, face numerous employment situations that at any time could affect their licenses. With over 3 million practicing nurses in the U.S., their role in the healthcare industry is vital. Nurses often spend more time with patients than any other medical professional. Nurses serve on the front lines of healthcare. Nurses are not only tasked with providing the direct medical care to patients, but they often must educate patients and families to understand a treatment or procedure, medications and its side effects, and generally how to navigate healthcare. Nurses’ importance to the public’s well-being and safety cannot be overstated. Simply put, the healthcare industry would not function without nurses.
South Carolina has a State Board of Nursing to oversee the safe and competent practice of nursing. The Board warrants that its “mission is accomplished by assuring safe initial practice as well as continuing competency in the practice of nursing and by promoting nursing excellence in the areas of education and practice. The Board licenses qualified individuals as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses or advanced practice registered nurses. Complaints against nurses are investigated and disciplinary action taken when necessary. Schools of nursing (pre-licensure programs) are surveyed and approved to ensure quality education for future nurses.”
The Nurse Practice Act sets out the grounds for discipline of a nurse’s license and, if a violation occurs, what discipline may be instituted by the Board, which could range from suspension or revocation of a license to issuance of a reprimand.
The Commons Grounds for Discipline under the Practice Act include the following:
Violating a federal, state, or local law involving alcohol or drugs or committed an act involving a crime of moral turpitude (conviction is not required to prove misconduct);
Allowing another person to use the nurse’s authorization to practice;
Willfully or repeatedly following a course of conduct that, by reasonable professional or ethical standards, renders the licensee incompetent to assume, perform, or be entrusted with the duties, responsibilities, or trusts which normally devolve upon a licensed nurse;
Having a license to practice nursing in another state suspended or revoked or had other disciplinary action taken by another state;
Disseminating a patient's health or personal information acquired during the course of practice to persons not entitled by law or hospital or agency policy to disclosure of this information;
Falsifying any organization's records, including personnel records or patient records;
Misappropriating money, property, or drugs from an employer or patient;
Obtaining, possessing, administering, or furnishing prescription drugs to a person including, but not limited to, one's self, except as directed by a person authorized by law to prescribe drugs; and
Engaging in the practice of nursing when judgment or physical ability is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances or has declined or been unsuccessful in accomplishing rehabilitation; omitting, in a grossly negligent fashion, to record information concerning a patient that would be relevant to that patient's condition.
Unfortunately, at some point during his or her career, a nurse may have a complaint filed for violating one of the standards enumerated in the Practice Act. When such a complaint is filed, detailed steps must be followed by the State to ensure due process for the nurse.
When the initial complaint is received, a preliminary review of the complaint is undertaken to determine if the complaint actually alleges a violation of the Practice Act. If the complaint is determined not to allege a violation, then the complaint is classified as a “Do Not Open” and a case is never opened. If it is determined that the complaint does allege a violation of the Practice Act, the case is assigned to an investigator and the following steps are followed:
Within 30 days of the case being assigned to an investigator, the nurse receives a letter advising of the complaint. When the investigation is complete, a report is created and forwarded to an Investigative Review Committee (IRC) for consideration;
The IRC will review the report and determine whether sufficient evidence exists of a violation of the practice act to warrant formal proceedings. The IRC will make a recommendation to the Board to dismiss the complaint, issue a formal complaint, or issue a letter of caution. The recommendation is then presented to the Board;
The Board can then accept the recommendation of the IRC or make its own determination;
If the Board determines a formal complaint is warranted, the nurse may be offered consent agreement where the facts, statutory violations, and sanctions are agreed to by the state and the nurse respondent, which will then be presented to the Board for disposition. The Board can accept or reject the consent agreement. A nurse also has the right not negotiate resolution and have a full hearing before the Board;
At the hearing, the parties are the State, which is represented by an attorney, and the nurse. The nurse has the right to be represented by an attorney;
After the hearing has concluded, the Board may find a violation has occurred and issue an order setting forth specific findings of facts, conclusions of law that support its ruling, and the discipline. Alternatively, the Board may issue an order dismissing the complaint. A Nurse has 30 days to appeal an adverse order of the Board to the Administrative Law Court.
If you have any questions regarding Nurses’ employment and licensing issues, please feel free to contact Arnold Law Firm by email or by phone at 864.242.2427 for a confidential consultation. When you leave Arnold Law Firm, you will know your rights and legal options.