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.
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.
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.
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