Florida Department of Health and Law Enforcement Investigate School Providing Nurse Practitioner Courses

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

A subpoena purportedly issued by the Clerk of Court for Seminole County, Florida, recently requested academic records on advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) students, including preceptorship agreements for clinical courses they had taken. A follow-up inquiry revealed that the Florida Department of Health was behind the subpoena, seeking evidence concerning possible fraudulent practices involving the supervision of those clinicals.

Apparently South University, which has its main campus and headquarters located in Savannah, Georgia, but offers courses in Florida, had agreements with one or more physicians in the Orlando area to furnish training for nurse practitioner students within their medical practices. Under the terms of the agreement, the physician was required to provide a nurse practitioner to supervise the student taking the clinicals.

However, what is being investigated is the allegation that no nurse practitioners were actually used to supervise those clinicals and the students. Instead, it is apparently being alleged that the names of various licensed advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) were used without their knowledge and put down as the supervisors for those students’ clinicals. Supposedly at least 20 names of nurse practitioners have been fraudulently used in this manner. Apparently the names of the nurse practitioners were also fraudulently signed to attestations that the students had actually completed the hours of clinical training. Usually there were four quarters or rotations of clinicals required of each student, encompassing hundreds of hours of clinical time.

It is estimated that over 100 advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) students went through this program and graduated. Based on their advanced degrees, they were licensed as advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) by the Florida Department of Health.

Will those unsupervised student clinical hours be disallowed?

The question is whether action will be taken by the Florida Department of Health, or another organization, to disallow those clinical nurse practitioner hours gained by students in this manner. If so, many who are currently licensed as nurse practitioners who went through this program may lose their licenses and be required to retake required clinical hours. Both the students and the college were apparently unaware of the fraudulent activity.

This case is reminiscent of the massage therapist cases rising in 2012.

This situation seems somewhat similar to the situation that over 180 Florida licensed massage therapists (LMTs) found themselves during 2012. Click here to read one of our prior blogs on this story.

In the case of the massage therapists, each of them had taken courses and graduated from a school in another state. However, when they moved to Florida they had to have the courses re-certified by a Florida approved college and take the additional required courses for Florida licensure. They went to a well known, reputable private college offering massage therapy courses. They paid their tuition and were provided documentation showing that their out of state credits had been transferred in. They were provided other documents by the college showing that they had completed all course requirements and met the standards for licensure. They received their Florida licenses based on this.

Later it was discovered that the registrar at that college had actually been stealing the tuition money paid by these massage therapists and not enrolling them in the college. She was falsifying college documents, including course completion certificates, diplomas, transcripts and other documents using the college’s official seal on them. To see a class action law suit filed discussing this scheme in greater detail, click here.

When the Florida Department of Health found out about this situation, it reacted in a “knee-jerk” fashion and did an emergency suspension of hundreds of massage therapist’s licenses, many of them with no advance notice to the massage therapists. To see a blog I wrote on this, click here.

Hundreds of massage therapist who could not afford to pay a lawyer to mount a legal defense wound up having their licenses revoked or felt compelled to voluntary relinquish their licenses. They lost their national certification in massage therapy because of this.

However, the massage therapists who challenged the revocation and demanded a formal administrative hearing on it, many of whom we represented, were successful in keeping their licenses, mainly because they were not at fault and did not know what the crooked registrar was doing.

Actions to take if you are a nurse practitioner notified of licensure action or that you are under investigation:

Following are the recommendations we would make to any potential client contacting us who has been notified that he or she may be under investigation by the Florida Department of Health or law enforcement authorities:

1. Do not talk to or make any statement, oral or written, to any investigator without first consulting with an experienced health law attorney.

2. Immediately obtain the services of an experienced health law attorney to represent you in the case.

3. Check with your professional liability insurance carrier for any professional liability insurance you had at the time or currently have to see if they will cover the matter. Your current policy may not cover it unless you had it when the events occurred. However, it might.

4. Do not respond to any subpoena for records for testimony until you have consulted with an experienced health law attorney. Even a current professional liability insurance policy should cover you in responding to a subpoena or if a deposition is sought.

5. Do not, under any circumstances, voluntarily relinquish your license, without retaining any experienced health law attorney familiar with this matter to represent you. Such a relinquishment may be the equivalent of a revocation and reported to national reporting bodies as such.

6. If charges arise and you are offered the right to a hearing, always elect a formal administration hearing at which you dispute the issues. Do not elect an informal hearing. In an informal hearing, you have to agree that the charges against you are true, in effect, admitting you are guilty. Do not make that common mistake.

If you desire to see information on emergency suspension orders and emergency restriction orders, click here.

 

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health (DOH) Investigations of Nurse Practitioners.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students and ARNPs in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensure defense representation, investigation representation, Department of Health investigations, Board of Nursing investigations , administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders 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: 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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for nurses, legal representation for nursing students, legal representation for ARNPs, legal representation for ARNP students, Licensure Defense Representation, Investigation Representation, Department of Health Investigations, Board of Nursing Investigations , Administrative Hearings, Emergency Suspension Orders, Emergency Restriction Orders, nurse attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, health law defense attorney, nursing student defense attorney, ARNP defense attorney, legal representation for licensure issues, legal representation for medical students, legal representation for investigations of health care professionals, DOH investigation defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The American Nurses Association Breathes New Life Into The Nursing Code of Ethics For 2015

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

On a daily basis, the average nurse uses knowledge, training and ethical standards to make vital decisions regarding patient health. Nurses are required to quickly process simple and complex emergency situations, which leaves little room for second guessing. So, to help guide those in the profession, the American Nurses Association (ANA) created a Code of Ethics.

This Code is the structure that provides foundational standards and offers guidance to practicing nurses for various situations. It also sets the standards against which nursing performance can be judged. For the first time since 2001, the ANA has revised the Nursing Code of Ethics. The revised Code was released to the public on January 1, 2015.

 

Why Now?

The revised version of the Nursing Code of Ethics is geared to help nurses in a more modern practice environment. It addresses some of the more current issues, including confidentiality issues raised by social media, treatment for end-of-life care and the integration of social justice into health care policy as a whole. These guidelines need to be updated as conditions and society changes, and health care advances and presents new problems.

 

What Changes Were Made?

Provisions 1-3: These contain newly established guidelines on advocating for the                                    patient, family and community, along with the need to exercise                                        kindness and respect in all professional relationships.

Provisions 4-6: Contains new guidelines on delivering and maintaining competent care                            that includes self-respect and self-care, accountability, and                                              responsibility to continue learning and growing personally and                                          professionally.

Provisions 7-9: Sets forth broader health issues in the community and on a national                                and international level, along with the advancement of professional                                  values, social policy and education.

 

The Nursing Code of Ethics is a reflection of the proud ethical heritage of nursing and serves as a guide and promise to society for all nurses now and into the future.

To view the complete revised Nursing Code of Ethics, click here.

ANA

Click here to find out more information on the American Nurses Association’s 2015 Year of Ethics

 

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the updates made to the code of ethics? Do you think it will help nurses identify components of real-world problems and analyze the situation effectively? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
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.
Sources:

Howard, Cynthia. “2015: The Year of Nursing Ethics.” Nurse Together. (February 5, 2015). From: http://www.nursetogether.com/2015-the-year-of-nursing-ethics

Northeast Ohio Media Group Marketing Staff. “Year of Ethics Offers Nurses Guidance and Support Regarding Moral Decisions.” Cleveland.com. (April 15, 2015). From: http://blog.cleveland.com/university_hospitals_health_system_inc/2015/04/year_of_ethics_offers_nurses_g.html

American Nurses Association. “Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements.” (May 1, 2015). From: http://www.nursingworld.org/Mobile/Code-of-Ethics

 

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. http://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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Crack Down on Unlicensed Practice of Nursing by Florida Department of Health

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

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) recently made a presentation regarding its increased investigation and prosecution of the unlicensed practice of nursing and other health professions. More resources and more investigators are being assigned to this duty.

The Department of Health has more than doubled the investigators in the Unlicensed Activity Unit from seven investigators to nineteen recently. This dramatic increase in resources and staff has resulted in the investigation of more complaints than ever regarding unlicensed practice of nursing.


Weapon of Choice in This Battle: Trust Funds.

Florida has a dedicated trust fund to combat unlicensed nursing and medical activity. Each nurse or other licensed health professional pays a $5.00 fee at initial licensure and each licensure renewal. These funds are deposited into Florida’s Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) Trust Fund. Each board is then consulted regarding enforcement methods and strategies to increase awareness about unlicensed activity. The Board of Nursing is routinely consulted by MQA on this issue.


Public Service Announcements.

The DOH has produced several short videos to inform the public of unlicensed activity. These public service announcement videos are currently being run as movie previews in theaters throughout South Florida. South Florida, as the most densely populated region in the state, higher rates of unlicensed activity than other parts of Florida.


Tips to Avoid Unlicensed Practice of Nursing Charges.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid charges of unlicensed practice of nursing or of aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of nursing:

1. If you are not licensed as a nurse in the state of Florida and you are working in Florida, do not call yourself a nurse. This by itself violates the law.

2. It does not matter if you are licensed as a nurse in another state or another country. If you are not licensed in Florida, you may not legally refer to yourself as a nurse here.

3. Wear a name tag that identifies you as “Medical Assistant,” “Doctor’s Assistant,” “Phlebotomist,” “Clinic Staff,” or title other than a nurse if you are not a licensed nurse in Florida.

4. If a patient or your own staff incorrectly refers to you as a “nurse,” correct them and advise them that you are not licensed in the state of Florida or that you are not a nurse, but a medical assistant.

5. If you are a doctor, clinic administrator, or office manager, never refer to a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant (CNA) or other unlicensed person as a “nurse” or “the nurse.”

6. Be sure none of your business cards, resume, letterhead or correspondence refers to you as a nurse, R.N., or L.P.N., unless you are actually licensed in the state.

We have been required to provide legal advice and representation to many different individuals because of situations like those above.


Word to the Wise.

The DOH’s Bureau of Enforcement is cracking down on unlicensed activity. It is highly likely that if you are practicing a health profession without a license, any complaint about you will be investigated. Practicing a health care profession without a license is a criminal offense. Penalties include arrest by law enforcement, fines, and the issuance of a cease and desist order.

To view the DOH Unlicensed Activity Program website, click here.


Comments?

Do you think the that merely referring to a person as a “nurse” should be grounds to prosecute him or her? How about referring to a person as a “doctor” or “doc?” If so, “what’s up, doc?” Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys
.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, optometrists, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, NPDB actions, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 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.

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:
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. http://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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in the Legal Specialty of Health Law

How Can I Tell Whether or Not My Attorney Knows Anything about Florida Board of Nursing or Disciplinary Cases?

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

Hiring an attorney can be intimidating and costly. However, hiring representation for a Florida Board of Nursing or disciplinary case is an investment in your future and career. An experienced attorney is indispensable for preparing and defending your case. But how do you know if your representation is knowledgeable in health law?

Below are some examples of what an experienced attorney will not say to a nurse about his or her Board of Nursing or disciplinary case. Remember, if you hear any of the advice below, the attorney most likely has limited or no experience in this area of legal practice.

1. Your attorney tells you that you can argue your case to the Board of Nursing.

Reason:

You cannot “argue your case” in front of the Board of Nursing. If you are at a hearing before the Board of Nursing, it is because you have requested an “informal hearing.”

If you have requested an “informal hearing” this means you do not dispute any of the facts alleged against you in the Department of Health (DOH) complaint. If you are not disputing the facts, this means you are agreeing that you are guilty. If you are at a hearing in front of the Board of Nursing, you will not be allowed to argue that you are not guilty, and you will not be allowed to call any witnesses or introduce any documents. You are only there for the purpose of determining how much punishment the Board will give you and this is based on guidelines that the Board has previously enacted.

2. If your attorney tells you that he or she does not intend to submit any information or documents for consideration by the Probable Cause Panel (PCP) of the Board of Nursing.

Reason:

Many cases are dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel (PCP) and this is the easiest, most expedient, and least expensive way of winning your case. However, your presentation (written only) that is submitted to the PCP must be direct, concise, directly address the legal issues, and be well organized. It is not advisable to try to prepare this yourself. We often include affidavits from our own expert witnesses that have reviewed the case. If the PCP does not vote in favor of probable cause, the case is dismissed and closed. It is like it never happened. There is no record kept of the initial complaint.

The PCP of the Board of Nursing consists of between two and four members. Some of these can be laypersons with no experience in your area of healthcare. A majority has to vote and decide that there is probable cause. Therefore, if there are only two members, and you convince one that you did not do it, then there is no probable cause.

In my opinion, this is the best and quickest way to win your case, but you must know what you are doing. There are exceptions to every rule.

3. If your attorney tells you to meet with the DOH investigator or to give a statement (written or oral) to the investigator, especially without being present or preparing you.

Reason:

DOH investigators are similar to police. If you give them any statement, this can be used to prove the case against you. In most cases, you never want to do this. Although there may be a rare exception, we strongly advise the client against this in about 99% of the cases we handle.

Even if you believe that you are totally innocent, your former employer, the unhappy patient who reported you, or the DOH prosecuting attorney may be convinced that you are not innocent and recommend that charges are prosecuted against you. Exhibit 1 used against you at a hearing will be your own statement. The first witness the DOH prosecutor will call to testify will be you.

Be smart in such matters. Don’t think you can just explain the case away. Don’t give evidence that can be used against you. It is not required under Florida law, and you cannot be compelled to do this.

4. If your attorney says you should call and negotiate with the DOH attorney, or PRN/IPN case manager.

Reason:

As discussed above, anything you say can and will be used against you. This is one of the main reasons you should retain an experienced attorney: to act as a buffer between you and the legal system, to protect you, and shield you from mistakes you make that could hurt your defense.

Additionally, if your attorney is not much more familiar with the DOH and the PRN/IPN procedures than you are, then why have you hired him or her?

5. If your attorney tells you not to worry about the hearing, you can later appeal.

Reason:

Only about 20% of cases are won on appeal. On appeal, the Court of Appeal is limited to the record of the hearing that was held. You are not allowed to reargue the facts in an appeal. You are limited to arguing about legal errors that were made during the hearing. If you don’t know the law, you are unable to effectively appeal.

6. If your attorney tells you that he or she can represent you during the investigation but is unable to “try” your case at an administrative hearing.

Reason:

Representation only through the PCP hearing stage simply is not enough. An attorney should have sufficient knowledge, experience, and skill to represent you throughout the entire case. If he or she does not, and formal administrative charges are recommended by the PCP, you will then need to retain a completely new attorney who will need time, effort, and legal fees to learn your case in order to properly represent you.

Additionally only an attorney who has experience in litigation cases against the DOH and your professional board will have the credibility and experience to negotiate the most favorable deal for you if you later desire to settle the case.

Consult With An Experienced Health Law Attorney.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to registered nurses (RNs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse midwives and nurse practitioners and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing registered nurses (RNs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse midwives and nurse practitioners in investigations at Board of Nursing hearings. Call now or visit our website 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. http://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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Nurses, No More Excuses: Get Personal Professional Liability Insurance Policy Now-Part 2

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

Nurses, I am writing this to strongly encourage you to purchase your own professional liability insurance policy. 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. Professional liability insurance will protect a nurse in the event of a lawsuit, and it may also pay legal defenses in the event of a complaint against a nurse’s license to practice or for other legal problems. If you already have nursing liability insurance, make sure it also pays all legal expenses incurred in defending a complaint against your license.

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

This is part two of the series, click here to read part one.

Excuse: Professional Liability Insurance is Expensive.

All nurses should protect themselves by obtaining professional liability insurance. A good policy will provide medical malpractice and, very importantly, licensure protection coverage. The costs on these policies vary, but it is generally quite reasonable. It is common to find professional liability insurance that provides excellent coverage and excellent benefits for less than a dollar a day. We’ve seen policies cost as low as $10 to $15 a month. That is a small price to pay to protect your livelihood.

Excuse: Licensure Defense Coverage Is Not Necessary.

When you buy professional liability insurance, again, it is very important you make sure it includes legal defense coverage for professional licensing defense and other administrative proceedings in an amount of coverage of at least $25,000. If it does not, I recommend you purchase a “rider” or additional coverage from that insurer for a small additional premium.  Also, attempt to obtain “broad form coverage.” This will pay for your legal defense costs for other types of regulatory and administrative proceedings such as: a) an internal hospital/facility peer review proceeding; b) a Medicare or Medicaid audit or investigation; c) a Medicare medical quality assurance investigation or review; d) an EEOC discrimination or harassment complaint or investigation; e) an alleged HIPAA privacy violation; f) a hospital clinical privileges action (if you have privileges); g) action to exclude you from the Medicare or Medicaid Program; or h) action to suspend or revoke your DEA registration (if you have one).  There are some insurance companies that sell professional license defense and defense costs and expenses for other types of administrative proceedings as a stand-alone insurance policy.

You should buy this coverage now, when you don’t need it. Otherwise, when you do need it, it will be too late.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Think You Have Professional Liability Insurance Through Your Employer? Think Again, Nurse!

00034_RT8By Joanne Kenna, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

Not a week goes by without a call coming into the firm from a nurse whose license is under investigation for some reason or another.  The nurse is generally dumbfounded that this has happened.  “But I’m a good nurse.  I never thought this could happen to me,” is the sad refrain.

Very often the nurse is correct.  He/she is a clinically good nurse.  Often there has never been any prior problem or any question of this.  But all it takes is one instance, just one violation that gets reported to the Department of Health (DOH), and the nurse is suddenly in the position of having his/her license investigated.  The nurse then has to defend his/her actions to protect the integrity of his/her license, and possibly even his/her ability to continue practicing, against the allegations of the violation.

Employer’s Insurance Coverage Protects the Employer, Not You.

Normally when a licensure investigation is initiated, the nurse is upset and angry, and is determined to do whatever is necessary to protect his/her license.  At this point the intelligent  nurse will usually start making telephone call(s) to seek legal advice and counsel.  Then comes the harsh reality.  Obtaining good legal services is expensive.  It can be very expensive.  Inevitably the question is put to the nurse as to whether he/she has insurance.  All too often the nurse responds that his/her insurance is (or more often at this point, was) through his/her employer.

Then more reality hits.   Often the nurse has already been terminated from employment by this point.  So, no insurance.  Even if the nurse is still employed, the nurse quickly finds out that the coverage he/she believed existed, and often was led by the employer to believe existed, is not really a policy for the nurse at all.  The nurse is “covered” under the hospital’s (you can substitute nursing home, clinic, etc., as applicable here) policy really only to protect the hospital’s interests.  Therefore, this “coverage” extends only to those situations and occurrences where the hospital might have liability.  (And even in that case the nurse should be wary because it is really the hospital’s interests that are being protected by the policy.   Where the nurse’s interests happen to be aligned with the hospital’s, all is good.  But where they are not, well, the hospital has coverage and its interests will be protected; as for the nurse, he/she is on his/her own).

What you should know is that the hospital’s insurance coverage is there to protect the hospital – – period.

Protect Your Nursing License with a Personal Professional Liability Insurance Policy.

You should also recognize that no nurse is immune from a professional liability claim.  No matter how conscientious and clinically competent the nurse may be, the potential for a professional licensure action always exists.   Day after day nurses forego legal representation when they are under licensure investigation because legal representation is unaffordable for them.  While some nurses get lucky and will have a good outcome in spite of this, many others will not.  The very idea of gambling with your nursing license that took so much effort to earn and is the key to your future earning capacity, is not only risky, it is downright foolish.

The truth of the matter is that all nurses should protect themselves by obtaining a personal professional liability insurance policy.  A good policy will provide medical malpractice and, very importantly, licensure protection coverage.  The cost on these policies varies, but it is generally quite affordable, often costing little more that $10 – $15 a month.

Licensure protection coverage provides the nurse with the ability to obtain competent legal representation from an attorney or a law firm that is familiar with handling licensure investigations and the disciplinary actions that can ensue from them.  Good policies will provide $10,000 – $25,000, and even more for legal expense.  Having this money available at the time it is needed allows the nurse to focus on his/her defense and provides the nurse the opportunity to pursue this defense all the way through the administrative process.  All too often the alternative is having the limited available funds dictate the nurse’s acceptance of an undesired resolution to the matter.

Be Smart, Get Professional Insurance Before it is Too Late.

So, if your independently wealthy, you can continue practicing without much concern about how you will be able to afford legal services for licensure defense if and when that becomes necessary.  If though you are not, and your answer to the question of whether you have insurance would be that you do through your employer, now is the time to start thinking about changing that.  Tomorrow just might be too late.

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 coverage? Are you thinking about getting it now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Joanne Kenna is a nurse-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 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.