At Board of Nursing Hearing, Each Aggravating Factor Must be Supported by “Competent Substantial Evidence” or Discipline Is reversible on Appeal

The foregoing case summary was prepared by Mary F. Smallwood, Esquire, of The Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

The Department of Health, Board of Nursing (“Board”) filed charges against Fernandez for administering medication to a person who was not his patient. The facts demonstrated that Fernandez had visited a friend in the hospital and administered a drug prescribed for one of his home health care patients. After an administrative hearing, the Board found that five aggravating circumstances justified an upward departure in the penalty provided for the Board’s guidelines to license revocation.

On appeal, the court reversed. While it found support for four of the aggravating circumstances cited by the Board, it held that one of the circumstances was not supported by competent substantial evidence. Specifically, the Board had determined that Fernandez’ actions had caused damage to the patient. The court found the only support for this determination was testimony in the hearing transcript that the court characterized as “speculation.” Since the court concluded that it was unclear whether the Board would have revoked Fernandez’ license absent the determination of damage to the patient, it reversed in part and remanded for the Board to reconsider the penalty without the unsupported aggravating circumstance.

Source:

Fernandez v. Department of Health, 120 So. 3d 117 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (Opinion filed August 14, 2013).

About the Author: The foregoing case summary was prepared by Mary F. Smallwood, Esquire, of The Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar. It originally appeared in the Administrative Law Section Newsletter, Col. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2013).

Nurses, No More Excuses: Get a Personal Professional Liability Insurance Policy Now-Part 1

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

To protect yourself from automobile accidents, you carry auto liability insurance. To protect your home from fire, storms and other accidents, you carry homeowners’ insurance. However, I have noticed many nurses fail to carry any insurance to protect one of their most precious assets, their nursing licenses. Yet such insurance is cheap and easy to obtain. I cannot stress enough how important it is for a nurse to carry a personal professional liability insurance policy that covers any investigation, complaint or administrative hearing that might be filed or opened against a nurse’s license.

In my experience, I’ve heard every excuse as to why a nurse does not have a personal professional liability insurance policy. In this blog series, I am exploring those excuses. I want every nurse to understand the importance of buying personal professional liability insurance now, before it is too late.

Keep in mind that a great deal more nursing license complaints are filed against nurses than there are liability lawsuits.

Excuse: I Am a Good Nurse, I Don’t Need Professional Liability Insurance.

You may be a good nurse, but good nurses are the subject of lawsuits and complaints. All it takes is just one violation that gets reported to the DOH or BON, and the nurse is suddenly in a position of having his or her license investigated. The nurse then has to defend his or her actions to protect the integrity of his or her license, and possibly the ability to continue practicing.

The harsh reality is that legal representation is very expensive. Without insurance, even if the nurse is found to be not negligent, the nurse is still responsible for the attorney’s fees and expenses incurred during trial. However, professional liability insurance will protect the nurse in the event of a lawsuit, and it may also pay legal defenses in the event of a complaint against the nurse’s license to practice or for other legal problems.

Excuse: I am Covered By My Employer’s Insurance.

We hear this on a weekly basis. Many nurses mistakenly believe that their employer insures them for legal fees and costs associated with defending against licensure complaints, Emergency Suspension Orders (ESOs), Notices of Investigation, and Administrative Complaints. In the overwhelming majority of cases, this is false. Often it is the employer that files the complaint against the nurse that causes the investigation. If you are told your employer will cover you in such circumstances, ask for a letter in writing and signed by the employer stating that the employer will pay for your defense in any DOH or BON investigation or subsequent administrative proceedings that arise out of your employment. It is unlikely that you will get it.

When a nurse is “covered” under a hospital’s (you can substitute nursing home, clinic, etc., as applicable here) policy, that policy primarily protects the hospital’s interests. Therefore, this “coverage” extends only to those situations and occurrences where the hospital might have liability.

Check This Blog for More.

I will continue to explore excuses I hear from nurses as to why they do not have a personal professional liability insurance policy in later blogs.

It is my hope that after reading this you will look into purchasing your own professional liability insurance policy.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing (BON) in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability coverage? Are you thinking about getting a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Appealing Final Orders and Emergency Suspension Orders (ESOs) from the Florida Board of Nursing

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The professional boards for licensed health professionals in Florida, such as the Board of Nursing, are all under the Florida Department of Health (DOH).  Each board is responsible for disciplinary actions and other matters regulating the professions under its authority.  The investigators and attorneys assigned for Board of Nursing matters all work for or are assigned to the DOH.  The Florida DOH is headed up by the Florida Surgeon General.  I think of the DOH as the umbrella agency over the professional boards or as a parent corporation which owns many subsidiary corporations.

Administrative Procedures Governing Investigations and Disciplinary Actions.

All agency actions, especially disciplinary actions and investigations, are governed by the Florida Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Chapter 120, Florida Statutes.  The Florida APA is modeled after the Federal Administrative Procedure Act.  However, in addition to the Florida APA, DOH investigations and hearings may also be governed by several different provisions of Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, a set of laws which govern all licensed health professionals.

For example, Section 456.073, Florida Statutes, gives certain procedural steps that must be followed in investigations and probable cause hearings involving complaints against nurses and other health professionals.  Section 456.073(13), Florida Statutes, is a new section added several years ago that provides a six (6) year “statute of limitations” for many disciplinary matters;  but there are many exceptions to this.

Section 456.074, Florida Statutes, gives the Surgeon General the authority to issue emergency suspension orders (or ESOs) in certain cases.  Section 456.076, Florida Statutes, authorizes the establishment of treatment programs for impaired health professionals and offers some alternatives to disciplinary action.  To date, the only recognized programs are the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) (which covers all nursing professionals) and the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) (which covers almost all other health professionals).  Section 456.077, Florida Statutes, authorizes nondisciplinary citations for certain offenses.  Section 456.078, Florida Statutes, authorizes mediation for certain offenses.

Mistaken Advice Regarding Appeals.

We are often consulted by nurses after they have an emergency suspension orders (or ESOs) entered against them or after they have a Final Order for disciplinary action entered against them.  We often hear that they consulted an attorney who advised them at an earlier stage of the proceedings, after they received a letter from a DOH investigator advising that they were being investigated, to not worry about putting together or presenting any defense at that stage.  We often hear that they consulted an attorney who advised them not to dispute the charges at a formal administrative hearing or not to request a formal administrative hearing.  We are told that they have been mistakenly advised that they should just wait and file an appeal because they are more likely to win on appeal.

This is, of course, incorrect advice.  If you compare these proceedings to criminal investigations, would any competent attorney advise you to not worry about preparing for a trial or contesting the charges at a trial?  Would any competent attorney advise you to just wait until you are convicted, because you could then file an appeal?  No, of course not.  This is because appeals are based on legal defects in the proceedings and do not involve any presentation of new facts that are not already in the record.  Additionally, very few cases are reversed on appeal, whether criminal, civil or administrative in nature.  So why give up your best shots at winning a case:  presenting a good case of factual information and documents at the investigation level or disputing the charges at a formal hearing?

Don’t Try to Be Your Own Attorney on an Appellate Matter.

There are, of course, many valid legal grounds for appeals of ESOs and Final Orders.  However, you have to understand the law and the procedural rules that govern such matters in order to be able to identify them and argue them on appeal.  In addition, appellate law is a legal specialty of its own.  If you are not familiar with researching case law and writing legal briefs, you should not be attempting to appeal your own case.  Would you attempt to perform brain surgery on yourself?  If so, you should get your head examined.  The courts of appeal are far more exacting in their requirements than trial courts are.  See The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.  However, most Florida courts of appeal also have their own local rules which may apply to appeals.

Grounds for appeal of an ESO include that less restrictive means of protecting the public were available or that the conduct alleged does not meet the legal requirement for imposing such a suspension.  Grounds for appeal of a Final Order include that the punishment it gives exceeds the disciplinary guidelines that each board has and that proper procedures were not followed which deprived the respondent of his or her right to a fair hearing.  There are many other grounds which one who practices regularly before the Board will be able to identify and raise in an appeal.

In many cases, it would be completely useless to appeal an ESO.  You would just waste time and money by doing so, with little or no chance to win or have it reversed.  You might be far better off requesting an expedited formal hearing, to which you are entitled in an emergency suspension case, and get your case heard as soon as possible.  You need the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney to help you figure out what the best course of action is in your case.

Where to Appeal May Be an Issue.

The notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the DOH.  However, a copy must also be filed with the appropriate appellate court having jurisdiction.  The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee will have jurisdiction in almost all DOH and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) appeals.  However, the District Court of Appeal which has jurisdiction over the county in which the respondent health professional resides will also have jurisdiction.  If the appellate case law of one of these is more favorable than the other, from a strategic viewpoint, it may be better to file in the one with the more favorable case law.

Alternative Actions to an Appeal May be Appropriate.

Furthermore, there may be more effective and less expensive methods of obtaining relief from an ESO or Final Order than an appeal.  If you are subject to an ESO, you have the right to an expedited hearing.  Sometimes this will result in quicker relief than appealing it.  If you are subject to a Final Order that has been issued in error or there was some mistake in the proceedings that led up to it, the Board may be inclined to reconsider the matter and amend it.  This would require you to file a motion for reconsideration with the Board itself.

Always Carry Professional Liability Insurance that Includes Licensure Defense Coverage.

We continue to recommend that all nursing personnel, especially those who work in hospitals, nursing homes or for agencies, carry your own professional liability insurance.  If you do purchase insurance, make sure it has professional license defense coverage that will pay for your legal defense in the event a complaint is filed against your nursing license.  Usually coverage of up to $25,000 comes with most good nursing liability policies.  There are many companies that sell such insurance for as little as $100 per year.  However, if you can get additional coverage, $50,000 is more likely to cover any foreseeable investigations, hearings and appeals.  Even higher limits can be purchased for a few dollars more from many insurance companies.

Seek Legal Advice and Prepare Your Defenses Early.

Always seek legal advice as soon as you suspect there may be a complaint of any kind or an investigation of any kind.  Don’t hide your head in the sand and think that the investigation could not possibly be about you.  Talk to an attorney before you talk to anyone else.  A good attorney will help to save you from making mistakes that could compromise a good legal defense.

Call the attorneys of The Health Law Firm to set up a consultation on any of the above issues. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Did you find this blog helpful? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Traveling Nurses Must Have Appropriate Professional Liability Insurance

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We are often asked what we consider to be the biggest problem that a nurse has in defending herself in a complaint against her license.  In our opinion, it is not having the financial resources to retain the services of an experienced attorney to defend her.  Because of this, we believe that any nurse, especially traveling nurses working at a hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health agency, assisted living facility, medical group, or any other organization must have her own personal professional liability policy that provides ample insurance coverage for professional license defense expenses.

Most Complaints Made Against Nurses are Filed by Employers.

In our experience, most of the complaints filed against nurse professionals come from employers.  In many cases, a patient will complain to the employer and the employer will file the complaint.  In others, the employer initiates the complaint because of substandard performance, documentation problems, allegations of theft or drug diversion, allegations of falsification of documents or records, etc.  When this happens, in most cases the employer terminates the nurse.  This is why we say that a nurse must have her own professional liability insurance policy.

We see a great many more complaints filed against a nurse’s license that she then must defend, than we ever see civil claims for damages.

Many nurses work under the incorrect assumption that they are “insured” by their employer or their agency or that their employer’s or agency’s insurance covers them.  This is a fallacy, especially when it comes to defending against a complaint made against one’s nursing license.  If your employer or agency is the one that files the complaint against you, you don’t really think that your employer or agency is going to cover the legal expenses associated with your defense, do you?

Some hospitals and health organizations are notorious about firing nurses who have any discrepancies in drug counts or who have documentation errors.  This often results in a complaint to the Department of Health (DOH) against the nurse’s license.

Furthermore, we are all aware of the phenomenon with the traveling nurse, the person who is no longer there, getting all of the blame for any problem or incident that come up.  The ones that are still at the facility, the ones who are conducting the investigation on the incident, are far less likely to find blame with their friends and colleagues who are still there.

Just when you need it the most, you may find yourself out of a job, with no income, and no money to pay for a legal defense.  This may ultimately lead to your losing your nursing license and your ability to ever work as a health professional again.

If You Don’t Have Personal Professional Liability Insurance-Get It.

Professional liability insurance policies for nurses are very cheap.  Often policies are only about ten dollars a month.  Usual limits of coverage for this small premium payment are one million dollars of coverage for civil suits and $25,000 or more coverage for professional license defense.

But wait, it is not as simple as just purchasing the first professional liability insurance policy you find.  Many professional liability insurance policies do not offer license defense coverage.  Or, if they do, it is limited to only complaints where there is also the threat that a patient is going to sue for money.  Still others provide such low limits of coverage for license defense expenses (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000) that it is not worth the money paid for it, while others do not allow you to choose your own attorney.

Insurance Companies We Recommend.

We usually tout insurance companies such as that provided by Nurses Service Organization (NSO) and Healthcare Professionals Service Organization (HPSO) as providing great bang for the buck.  But here lately, we’ve been seeing (and hearing) more and more about CPH & Associates insurance.  Not only does it provide one million dollars in coverage if you are sued in a civil court, but it also provides up to $35,000 in coverage for professional license defense.  Additionally, for a very small additional payment, with CPH & Associates Insurance you can increase that coverage to $100,000 for professional license defense.  The other company we hear good things about is Lloyd’s of London.

If you have a complaint filed against your nursing license and you have to prove your innocence through a formal administrative hearing (trial), this can be very, very expensive.  Additionally, if you lose at this level, you may have to appeal the results to a higher court.  These expenses can easily cost $75,000, even if you win.  And you are not ever assured that you will get any of this money paid back to you, even if you are innocent and you win the case.  Inexpensive insurance coverage is the only thing that makes since.  Buy it!

In Conclusion.

We urge all nurses, especially traveling nurses, to purchase and maintain their own personal professional liability insurance policy.  It’s tax deductible.  But check to make sure you have coverage for professional license defense, even when there is no claim for damages expected from a patient.  Additionally, pay the extra premium to purchase a higher limit of coverage for professional license defense cases, or buy a second insurance policy for this additional coverage.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability insurance? Will you consider purchasing a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Terrible Things That Can Happen after Discipline on Your Nursing License or Resignation of a Nursing License after Notice of Investigation

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Do you have nursing licenses in several different states? Do you have a license in more than one health profession? Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you? Are you thinking about resigning your nursing license or voluntarily relinquishing such a license? Then you must be aware of the following.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you. Such a resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment” and is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), to any certifying bodies for certifications you have and to other reporting agencies (such as the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for its NURSYS data bank). Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action based upon the first one.

Protect Your Nursing License from These Adverse Actions.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your nursing license after receiving notice of investigation:

1. A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2. Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least ten years.

3. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the nurse has a license will also initiate investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

a. If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid. This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b. If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list. This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding. This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c. If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program. In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your nursing license.

5. Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., NURSYS profile maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing) will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6. If you are a nurse practitioner or other professional with clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff membership if you have such. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic. This will usually be for advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse midwives or certified nurse anesthetists (CNAs).

7. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

8. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

9. Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

What Should You Do?

- Don’t take the easy way out by immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

- Don’t hide your head in the sand by thinking the case will just go away on its own.

- Don’t take the easy way out. If you are innocent of the charges, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

- Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true. If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

- Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings. They are out there, but you may have to search for one. Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

- Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not. This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney. Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

A Health Lawyer’s Opinion on Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage. Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances. Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase; $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation. For a few dollars more (and I do mean only a few) you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, I will repeat, make sure it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you or likely to be filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include: CPH & Associates Insurance, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Kudos to Wyoming State Board of Nursing for its Accurate Information on its Website for Nurses

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

As a nurse, when you are the subject of a complaint that alleges improper conduct or action that could result in discipline against your license, finding correct information regarding the disciplinary process is vital. I’ve recently found that the Wyoming State Board of Nursing (BON) is one of the few nursing board websites that provide accurate information on discipline. On this website, there is information about  nurses’ legal rights, and explanations of the investigation or hearing process, for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs).

Click here to go to the Wyoming State BON website.

Wyoming State BON Website Provides Information Regarding the Board’s Duty of Reporting to National Practitioner Data Bank.

Information about nursing discipline actions was previously reported to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB) by the Board taking action. The HIPDB collected reports made by federal and state licensing agencies, federal and state prosecutors, and federal and state government agencies that had excluded a practitioner, provider or supplier from their health plan.

On May 6, 2013, the HIPDB officially merged with the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The two data banks are now known as the NPDB. To read a blog on how this merger affects you, click here. For more information about NPDB, visit the website: http://www.npdb-hipdb.hrsa.gov/.

Wyoming Website Provides Information Regarding Actions by Office of Inspector General and the Exclusion List.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has the authority to exclude individuals and entities from federally funded health care programs (Medicare, Tricare, Medicaid) and maintain a list of all currently excluded individuals and entities. This is called the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Anyone who hires an individual or entity that is listed on the LEIE may be subject to civil monetary penalties (CMP).

The OIG has discretion to exclude individuals such as nurses or nursing assistants on a number of grounds, including misdemeanor convictions related to health care fraud (other than Medicare or a state health program); misdemeanor convictions relating to the unlawful manufacture, distribution, prescription, or dispensing of controlled substances; and purposes of disciplinary action by the Board including suspension, revocation or surrender of a license for reasons baring on professional competence or professional performance.

This means that if your license or certificate is suspended, revoked or voluntarily surrendered, your ability to be employed by a health care provider or facility that also receives federal funding, such as Medicare, may be precluded despite the statue of your licensure. In other words, once you are on the exclusion list and have not been taken off even after a reinstatement, you will not be able to be hired as a nurse or nursing assistant by medical facilities receiving federal funds.

To read more on the devastating and far-reaching effects of being excluded, click here.

The Wyoming BON website is the only one I have come across that accurately advises nurses of the collateral consequences of disciplinary action.

Legal Advice for Nurses in These Situations.

I want to commend the Wyoming State BON for including this information on its website. The information provides a great start for nurses with complaints against their licenses.

I’d like to offer up some additional advice. I encourage all nurses to buy insurance to cover license investigation legal defense expenses. Most nursing malpractice insurance policies are very inexpensive and provide excellent coverage. Most contain insurance coverage that will pay for an attorney and other legal defense expenses if you are being investigated or charged with a licensure offense. You should have at least $25,000 in coverage for such investigations and administrative proceedings.

Obtain an Experienced Health Law Attorney Immediately After Receiving Any Notification of an Investigation.

If the BON is investigating a complaint against your license, immediately obtain an experienced health law attorney to represent you throughout the investigation and disciplinary proceedings.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of the information listed on the Wyoming State Board of Nursing website? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Attorneys, Lawyers and Defense Council in Florida

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Often we learn after the fact that a health professional such as nurses, advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNPs) and nurse midwives (NMs) has received Nurses Service Organization (NSO) insurance, has had a legal problem, and has not been able to locate an attorney or law firm that accepts this type of insurance. We have offices in Florida and Colorado, but we have attorneys licensed in Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Virginia and other states.

Additionally, we can provide legal advice and representation in license investigations and administrative proceedings in many other states.

If you have NSO Insurance, do not go without an attorney or with a lawyer that has little or no experience where you need it.

The Health Law Firm Will Work with Your Insurance Company.

Call us first. We can assist you in determining if your legal problem is covered by your insurance, and we can help you file a claim to have your legal defense expenses and costs covered. In most cases, we will accept the assignment of your insurance so that you do not have to worry about legal bills while your case is going on.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Nurses.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. We will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company, if your insurance company will allow this. Many of these insurers will pay our firm to represent you in the legal defense of an investigation or complaint against your professional (nursing, medical, dental, psychology, mental health counselor) license or for an administrative hearing involving professional discipline.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Nursing Liability and Nursing Malpractice – Part 2

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In this blog I discuss the concept of nursing malpractice. It is the second blog of my two-part series. To read part one, click here.

The Duty of Reasonable Care.

The plaintiff must first show that the nurse had a duty to provide care for the plaintiff. The element of duty is usually straightforward and relatively easy for the plaintiff to prove because once nurses undertake care for their patients they have a clear duty to provide care for that patient in a competent and reasonable manner. Nurses owe a clear duty of care to all of their patients.

Breach of Duty.

When applied to nursing, a breach of a duty occurs when a nurse does, or does not do, what a reasonable nurse would have done under the same, or similar, circumstances. This would mean that the nurse’s care fell below the acceptable standard of care.
The standard of care is a legal concept which reflects how a nurse is expected to act professionally. It incorporates the expectation that nurses conduct themselves with the degree of care, skill and knowledge that reasonably competent nurses would exhibit in a similar situation. It is important to remember that the standard represents a minimum level of practice to which nurses must adhere in order to avoid being found negligent. In other words, nurses do not have to exert heroic efforts to perform their job satisfactorily; they are expected to exercise their good judgment, education and training to the best of their ability, under the circumstances. Nursing care that falls below the acceptable standard of care may result in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the nurse. The standard of care is particular to each field of nursing practice. For instance, orthopedic nurses determine the standard of care for orthopedic nurses.

Injury or Damage.

To prove the element of injury the plaintiff must be able to establish that, in addition to pain and suffering, they have experienced a physical injury, lost money or have an actual reduction in the quality of their life. The injury which the plaintiff suffered will help to determine the monetary damages that will be awarded if the plaintiff succeeds at trial.

Causation.

Causation is often the most difficult element of medical malpractice to prove. In order to prove that the defendant caused their injury, loss or harm, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s act or omission either caused, or was a substantial factor in causing, harm to the plaintiff. If the defendant proves that the harm would have occurred anyway, irrespective of the defendant’s act or omission, then the negligence action will fail for lack of causation.

Sources for the Standard of Care.

Where do nursing standards come from, and who decides what the standard of nursing care should be in each particular medical malpractice case? The answer is that the sources for nursing practice standards are varied. The court relies on some or all of theses sources to help determine the applicable standard of care in each individual case.
Some of these sources for nursing standards include:

1. Florida Nurse Practice Act, Chapter 464, Florida Statutes;
2. Other Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code;
3. Case law;
4. Principles, guidelines and standards of professional associations such as the American Nursing Association (ANA);
5. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO);
6. Hospital Policies;
7. Standards of Care as testified to by other members of the profession; and
8. Authoritative Nursing Texts and Journals.


Nurse’s Accountability for the Standard of Care.

As a licensed nurse, you are expected to know what the generally accepted standard of care entails and follow that general standard in your daily practice. The policy and procedure manual of your facility should contain nursing care guidelines. However, if the facility you are working in does not adhere or comply with the generally accepted standard of nursing care, then, following the facility’s policies and procedures will not protect you from a charge of malpractice. This is because all nurses are accountable for the nurse’s standard of care. If you are aware that your facility’s policies and procedures are below the generally accepted standard of care, then you should promptly notify your nurse-manager or the risk-control committee of your concerns.

Conclusion.

Over the years nurses are becoming ever more likely targets for plaintiffs, and their attorneys, in medical malpractice cases. It is extremely important for a nurse to know the malpractice laws that encompass the nursing profession. By knowing each element of medical malpractice and the different standards of care that a nurse is held to. A nurse who can adhere to the different standards of care can avoid being held liable for medical malpractice.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Nursing Liability and Nursing Malpractice – Part 1

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A wrongful act that causes harm to a person for which the law allows a person to recover is called a “tort.” The most common type of tort is one based on negligence. In order to recover form a tort based on negligence, there are four elements which must be met are that there is an act (or failure to act) in which the following are present: 1) a duty owed by the one performing the act to the one who is harmed; 2) an act (or failure to act) which breaches that duty; 3) actual damage or harm sustained; and causation (in other words, the act or failure to act caused the damage or harm).

Malpractice is just another name for professional negligence. Professional negligence is a tort committed by a licensed professional, in this case a nurse. In order to show nursing malpractice, one must show all of the elements of a negligence tort. The only difference is that in professional negligence, the duty that must be shown is the professional duty that the licensed professional owes to the one injured, in this case, her patient. Accordingly, the duty owed will be one of the nurses professional duties as a nurse.

I will discuss the concept of nursing malpractice further in this two-part blog series.

Defining Negligence.

Negligence is the failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent person would use under similar circumstances.

The law of negligence is part of what is known as “tort” law. The term “tort” originates from the French word meaning “wrong.” The law of negligence therefore deals with injuries or a wrong caused by one person towards another. Most negligence lawsuits are civil, not criminal, cases. A person can be found negligent even though they did not actually intend to harm the inured party, because negligent conduct is the behavior which results in unintended harm.

Defining Medical Malpractice.

Medical malpractice can occur when a health care professional fails to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable health care professional would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. In other words, medical malpractice is negligence committed by a health care professional.

Medical malpractice is a specialized area of law that deals with negligence claims against health care professionals. Medical malpractice is often perceived as conduct which is somehow more egregious than mere negligence. This perception is erroneous because medical malpractice is simply ordinary negligence by a healthcare provider that causes some injury to the patient.

Several years ago nurses were only liable for negligence. Although as nurses exercise more autonomy, their legal liability has changed. Courts in a number of states recognize and identify nursing negligence as a form of medical malpractice.

A Florida lawsuit helps to illustrate this point. In this case, a mother made a routine prenatal visit to the hospital. While in the waiting room the mother complained to the nurse of severe abdominal pain. Over the next hour and a half the mother complained of pain five times, each time she was told that she would have to wait to be examined. When the mother was finally examined her unborn child’s fetal heart rate was only 60 to 70 beats per minute. An emergency cesarean section was performed but the baby was born severely depressed, hypoxic, suffered from severe brain injury and developed seizures within the first hour.

In this case the nurse did not intend to cause harm to the baby or the mother, however the nurses failure to have the patient examined when she complained of severe abdominal pain and her failure to recognize the onset of fetal distress was negligent. A reasonably prudent nurse would have had the patient examined by a physician and recognized signs of fetal distress when the patient complained of acute abdominal pain. The hospital settled this case for $2 million.

The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice.

In order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove each of these four elements:

1. the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care;
2. the defendant breached her duty;
3. the plaintiff incurred an injury, loss or harm; and
4. the defendant’s acts or omissions caused the plaintiff’s injury, loss or harm.

The plaintiff must prove each of these four elements by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely that the defendant committed the medical malpractice than not.

Check the Nursing Law Blog for More.

In the second part of this blog I will go into more detail about the four elements of medical malpractice. Check back next week for that blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

The Collateral Effects of Discipline on Your Nursing License

indest1By George F. Indest, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A. A case involving an arrest or a conviction involving alcohol abuse (DUI/public Intoxication) or drugs (possession, diversion, theft, trafficking) will probably result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) until the entire licensure case is complete.

B. Client may be required to be evaluated and probably enrolled in the Impaired Nurses Program (IPN) (for nurses only) or the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) (for all other licensed health professionals), which is usually at least a five year contract.

C. Action to revoke, suspend or take other action against the clinical privileges and medical staff membership of those licensed health professionals who may have such in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, or staff model HMO or clinic. This will usually be advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

D. Mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) (Note: Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently folded into NPDB) which remains there for 50 years.

E. Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least 10 years.

F. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the client has a license will also initiate action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states).

G. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

H. If the above occurs, the provider is also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting and is placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) debarment list.

I. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

J. The certified health professional’s certify organization will act to revoke his or her certification.

K. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

L. Any profile maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., American Medical Association physician profile or Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy profile) will include the conviction.

M. Regardless of any of the above, any facility licensed by AHCA (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), public health clinics, public health clinics, group homes for the developmentally disabled, etc.) that are required to perform background screenings on their employees will result in AHCA notifying the facility and the professional that he or she is disqualified from employment.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health Investigations, before the Board of Nursing, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.