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).

Other Options Must Be Considered Before Emergency Suspension Order Will Be Upheld

The Department of Health (“DOH”) issued an emergency order suspending Burton’s license to practice nursing.

On appeal, the court quashed the emergency order. It held that DOH had failed to examine other disciplinary options available to it short of suspension. While recognizing DOH might be able to support license suspension as an appropriate penalty, it held that Burton was entitled to a hearing to contest the charges.

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Osterhaus cited numerous findings in the DOH order that supported suspension.

Source:

Burton v. Department of Health, 116 So. 3d 1285 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (Opinion filed July 24, 2013).

About the Author: The forgoing 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, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec. 2013).

Florida Woman Uses Forged License to Practice Nursing

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

A Florida woman allegedly used a fake state nursing license to pose as a nurse and then treat patients at their homes, according to the Lake County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office. The woman is accused of treating patients at least seven times, but the sheriff’s office stated there may be more victims. The fake nurse was arrested on September 27, 2013. She faces charges of working as a nurse without a license and using a forged state document.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

This is not the woman’s first time in trouble with law enforcement. Earlier this year she was allegedly arrested for running an unlicensed assisted living facility (ALF), according to WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, Florida.

Used Another Nurse’s License Number to Dupe Employer.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the fake nurse was hired at TLC Home Care Facilities in Leesburg, Florida, in May 2013, after presenting the forged nurse license to her employer. Part of the phony nurse’s job was to treat patients at their home, including administering blood pressure checks and dispensing medications.

An audit of TLC Home Care facilities by the Department of Health (DOH) uncovered that the phony nurse was allegedly using the same nursing license number as a woman with a similar name. The legitimate nurse actually works at St. Petersburg General Hospital.

Fake Nurse Previously Arrested for Similar Charges.

In December 2012, the same woman was arrested for scheming to defraud and criminal use of personal information, according to WFTV.

Then in March 2013, the Florida Attorney General’s (AG) Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) arrested her again for running an unlicensed ALF. According to WFTV, the woman billed residents for more than $55,000 worth of services in spite of the fact she was operating a facility without a state-required license.

Click here to watch WFTV’s report.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Fraudulent Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health professionals.

To see a recent blog a fake Florida pharmacist sentenced to prison, click here. To read a blog on a phony dentist in Miami, click here. You can also read the blog on a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

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 think it is too easy to forge a health care professional’s license? Should the home health facility be punished for not doing a thorough background check? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Comas, Martin. “Woman Used Forged Documents to Work as a Nurse, Deputies Say.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 27, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-woman-assumed-nurse-identity-20130927,0,395526.story

Hughes, Ryan. “Deputies: Woman Pretending to be Nurse has been in Trouble Before.” WFTV. (September 27, 2013). From: http://www.wftv.com/videos/news/deputies-woman-pretending-to-be-nurse-has-been-in/vCDXSX/
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.

Overcoming License Suspension and Revocation Pending Appeal

By: Lance O. Leider, J.D.

If you are a doctor, nurse, dentist, psychologist, pharmacist, massage therapist or other licensed health professional whose license has been recently revoked or suspended, there may still be hope. Ordinarily, you must immediately stop practicing or you risk being prosecuted for unlicensed practice, a felony. Although this blog deals with Florida law, similar relief may be available in other states, too.

One of the hardest things about having a license suspended or revoked is that it immediately cuts off the licensee’s sole source of income. If you have a thriving practice, this will usually destroy any value your business has. Without income, paying your bills will be a challenge, much less the cost to fight the legal action or to appeal.

Even if you appeal the decision and win the appeal, you will be out of practice for many months, often more than a year, before your license is reinstated. You still have all the lost income and business, and you never get this time and money back.

Fortunately, Florida law provides an avenue for temporary relief from the adverse decision, so that you may retain your license and practice your profession pending appeal of your case. This legal process is called a writ of supersedeas.

What is Supersedeas Relief?

Supersedeas relief is a form of relief granted by a reviewing court (court of appeal) that suspends the enforcement of the judgement of the lower court (or agency) while the underlying issues are decided on appeal. What this means is that you can have the action to revoke or suspend your license put on hold while you appeal the decision of the Department of Health (DOH).

This relief is authorized in two separate places in Florida law: Section 120.68(3), Florida Statutes, and Rule 9.190(e)(2)(C), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Both of these provisions state that a reviewing court can grant a stay of enforcement of the revocation or suspension of a license pending review.

The relief is not automatic, however. Both provisions specifically prevent supersedeas from being granted if the licensee poses a probable threat to the health, safety or welfare of the state. Fortunately, it is the burden of the agency whose order is being reviewed to prove that there is a danger to the public.

Additionally, the Appellate Rule permits you to ask for expedited review. (Which of course is recommended because you want to be back to work as quickly as possible, right?) This means that the agency only has ten (10) days to file its opposition. This shortened time period may make it difficult for an overworked government attorney to file on time or to produce quality opposition.

Steps to Seeking Supersedeas Relief.

1. File an appeal of the Final Order revoking or suspending your license with the appropriate agency and a copy to the appellate court. Be sure to follow all appellate rules and instructions.

2. File a Petition for Expedited Supersedeas Relief with the appellate court at the same time.

3. If you receive a favorable ruling from the court, deliver that order to the licensing agency (in this case, the DOH) and request that your license be reinstated immediately.

Other Considerations.

It is important to note that this form of relief will not make the underlying action disappear. Your return to practice will only be temporary, unless you win the appeal. You will still have to show the licensing agency did something contrary to law when it imposed the discipline in order for the appellate court to overturn the decision. This is not often an easy task. Furthermore, the law only permits a thirty (30) day window in which to appeal the agency’s decision, after which your rights are lost and you are very likely stuck with the decision.

Appeals Are Very Technical and Require a Thorough, Specialized Knowledge of the Law.

What few people understand is that appeals are very technical and have complex, procedural rules that you must follow. An appeal of an agency final order is not the place to argue about the facts of your case or to try to prove different facts.

An appeal is all about the law and the court cases that have interpreted the law. Unless the agency (in this case your board) made a legal error and violated the law, you won’t win.

For an appeal, a person needs an attorney. To prevail on an appeal, you must have a detailed knowledge of the correct, relevant court cases and you must be able to argue these in the proper form in legal briefs.

There are many other procedural steps you must follow in an appeal that only a good appellate attorney will know. To attempt to do this yourself is not advisable.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

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: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

The 25 Biggest Mistakes Nurses Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Complaint

By Lance Leider, J.D.

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a nurse’s license to practice and the assessment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter, and it should be treated as such by the nurse who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by nurses after the entire investigation is over, and they have attempted to represent themselves throughout the case. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the nurse.

These are the 25 biggest mistakes we see in the nursing cases we are called upon to defend after a DOH investigation has been initiated:

1. Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.

2. Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

3. Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

4. Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct nurse. (Note: Check name and license number).

5. Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “Fast Track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the nurse’s license until all proceedings are concluded. (Note: This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with PRN instructions.)

6. Providing a copy of the nurse’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

7. Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

8. Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.

9. Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

10. Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

11. Failing to keep an exact copy of any medical records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.

12. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in hospital procedures, medical procedures or the health care matters or procedures being investigated.

13. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.

14. Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

15. Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.

16. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more the matter has “gone away.” The matter does not ever just go away.

17. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

18. Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.

19. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of your licensing board for a decision.

20. Taking legal advice from their colleagues regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.

21. Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.

22. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel.

23. Attempting to defend themselves.

24. Believing that because they know someone with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

25. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

Bonus Point: 26. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

Not every case will require submission of materials to the Probable Cause Panel after the investigation is received and reviewed. There will be a few where the allegations made are not “legally sufficient” and do not constitute an offense for which the nurse may be disciplined.

In other cases, an experienced health care attorney may be successful in obtaining a commitment from the DOH attorney to recommend a dismissal to the Probable Cause Panel. In other cases (usually the most serious ones), for tactical reasons, the experienced health care attorney may recommend that you waive your right to have the case submitted to the Probable Cause Panel and that you proceed directly to an administrative hearing. The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Medicine in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Nurses.  

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses and nurse practitioners in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.   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: Lance O. Leider, J.D. is an attorney with 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.

Nurse: Please Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator

By Lance Leider, J.D.

In Florida, You DO NOT Have to Speak to an Investigator!

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to nurses throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

Nurses, Investigators are NOT on Your Side.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement. You will not be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is not your friend. The investigator is not on your side. All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

Protecting Yourself and Your License.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your nursing license revoked the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove ths case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your professional license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many health professionals, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

Do NOT Admit to Anything; What You Say May Ruin Your Defense.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense. It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial). It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents. But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this. You would be surprised at how many nurses believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation; in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the clinic, admitting that you wrote the prescription, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you. Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

Determining the Purpose of the Investigation.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.

Do Not Try to Talk Your Way Out; You Cannot Outsmart the Investigator.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time. They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is. Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed. Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you. If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying. However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

Before Saying ANYTHING Be Sure to Consult an Attorney.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.” “I will have my lawyer contact you.” “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.” “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no good reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney. What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?” Please don’t fall for this trick, either. This is America. Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them. There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the nurse only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test. Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Nurses.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses and nurse practitioners in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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: Lance O. Leider, J.D. is an attorney with 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.

Florida Nurse Accused of Abusing Patient

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

A Florida State Hospital licensed practical nurse (LPN) has been arrested and charged with one count of abuse of a disabled adult at the facility. The nurse was arrested on a felony warrant by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). The arrest was announced by the Florida Attorney General on June 29, 2012.

Nurse Accused of Abusing Patient During Medication Administration.

The nurse allegedly struck a disabled woman at the mental health facility, while trying to administer medication. The nurse attempted to administer medications to the patient by holding her nose closed in an attempt to force her mouth open, slapping her across the face, and pulling the patient’s hair, according to the charges filed.

The nurse has been charged with one count of abuse of a disabled adult, which is a third degree felony. If convicted she faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) Conducted Investigation.

Investigators with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) received information regarding the alleged abuse from the Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Adult Protective Services Program. The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the arrest. The case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida.

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.

Sources Include:

Lucas, John. “Attorney General Pam Bondi Announces Arrest of Nurse for Abusing a Disabled Adult at Florida State Hospital.” Florida Office of the Attorney General. (June 29, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/AF6292E44D8579B685257A2C0069ED2D

WCTV. “Nurse at Florida State Hospital Arrested for Abuse.” WCTV.com. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Nurse_at_Florida_State_Hospital_Arrested_for_Abuse_160893645.html

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 27 Biggest Mistakes Nurses Make in Department of Health Investigations

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

Following are the 27 biggest mistakes that we have seen nurses make over and over again that cause them the worst trouble in DOH investigations.

1. Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.

2. Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral
interview. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

3. Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH
investigator to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

4. Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct nurse. (Note: Check name and license number).

5. Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “fast track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the physician’s license until all proceedings are concluded. (Note: This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with IPN instructions.)

6. Providing a copy of the nurse’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator
because the investigator requested her to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

7. Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case
dropped.

8. Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.

9. Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed. Will usually not apply to nurses bu may apply to ARNPs and nurse midwives.

10. Failing to keep an exact copy of any medical records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.

11. Failing to submit correspondence and documents via certified mail, return receipt
requested, so that you have proof of mailing and proof of receipt.

12. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in hospital procedures, nursing procedures or the health care matters or procedures being investigated.

13. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.

14. Failing to check to see if your nursing malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend in this investigation.

15. Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.

16. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more, that the matter has “gone away.” The matter does not ever just go away.

17. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

18. Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.

19. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of the Board of Nursing for a decision.

20. Taking legal advice from their colleagues or employers regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.

21. Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.

22. Retaining criminal defense attorneys, trial attorneys or other attorneys to represent them in such matters when that attorney does not have experience in appearing before the Board of Nursing in such cases (always ask the attorney how many time she or she has actually appeared before the Board of Nursing.)

23. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel. The case is usually defensible.

24. Attempting to defend themselves.

25. Believing that because they know someone on the Board of Nursing, with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

25. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

27. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

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.

Adverse Consequences of Discipline Against Your Nursing License

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

If the Florida Department of Health (DOH) takes discipline against your Florida nursing license, this will have many significant consequences.

Investigation and Discipline of Other State Licenses.

The discipline will be reported to every other state in which you have a license and similar investigations will be opened by those states.

Many states also have laws similar to those of Florida which require you to report discipline yourself to the other state in which you are licensed. Sometimes this is very short, 15 or 30 days, for example. Check the other state’s laws to be sure.

Discipline Against Other Types of Licenses.

If you have other types of health professional licenses, such as a massage therapist (LMT) license, emergency medical technician (EMT) license, mental health counselor license (LMHC), advance registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) license, acupuncture physician (A.P.) license, etc., it is most likely that an investigation will be opened against the other license. This may result in discipline against your other license.

Discipline Will be Reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

Additionally, any discipline against your Florida nursing license will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), as well as other reporting organizations. You may also face action to exclude you from the Medicare Program by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). If this occurs, it will be virtually impossible for you to get a job anywhere, especially in a hospital or facility.

Possible Loss of Certification.

In addition, if you are certified in a specialty, your certification organization may revoke or not renew your certification. It may also have rules requiring you to report disciplinary action.

Loss of Employment Opportunities.

Many health facilities, insurers, hospitals and other employers have policies against hiring nursing professionals with discipline on their licenses. Regardless of what an employer or supervisor might orally tell you, company policy, whether formal (written) or informal, may cause you to be terminated as an employee.

Buy Insurance to Cover License Investigation Legal Defense Expenses: It’s Cheap.

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. Buy this. You should have at least $25,000 in coverage for such investigations and administrative proceedings. $50,000 in coverage would be better, even if you must pay extra or buy additional coverage.

If you are innocent of the charges alleged against you, a fully contested formal administrative hearing (trial) could easily cost $50,000. If you can’t afford to pay this amount yourself, you may have to give up your rights to proof of your innocence or guilt. Buy insurance to cover such unfortunate circumstances.

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

If the DOH is investigating you, you will receive a letter stating that an investigation has been opened by the DOH for discipline against your license. Do not speak with or make any statement to any DOH investigator (for more on this, see our previous blog post). Instead, immediately obtain an experienced health law attorney to represent you throughout the investigation and disciplinary proceedings.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Board of Nursing Cases.

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.