Florida Bill to Expand Authority of Nurses Flatlines During 2014 Legislative Session

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

The 2014 Legislative Session ended May 2, 2014, with the death of an omnibus health bill. House Bill 7113 would have provided provisions to expand the power of nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians’ oversight. This extension of authority to nurses would no longer require them to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. The bill died after being passed back and forth between the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate numerous times. It could not be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means.

Currently, Florida nurse practitioners must work under direct supervision of physicians. The bill would have changed the title of nurse practitioners or advanced registered nurse practitioners. These are registered nurses with post-college education, usually a Master’s degree. The denied change would have retitled these health professionals to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The bill would have also provided nurses the authority to sign documents that currently require a physician’s signature. This would have included the ability to prescribe controlled substances.

There is a total of 17 states in the United States that have adopted similar bills allowing nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians as APRNs.

To read the entire article from Modern Healthcare, click here.

Conflicting Opinions of the Bill.

Proponents of expanding nurse practitioner autonomy argue that the bill would reduce health care costs in addition to solving a critical shortage of primary care physicians. Because of the high enrollment numbers associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is anticipated that the need for physicians and health care providers will dramatically increase. Supporters also argue that northerners will be accustom to treatment by nurse practitioners because states such as Connecticut and New York have passed similar bills. They will expect the same level of care when moving to Florida during the winter months.

Opponents of the bill, led by various medical associations, argue the dangers of allocating such power to nurses. They warn that nurses should not have access to prescribing controlled substances without a doctor’s supervision. This argument is defended by highlighting Florida’s constant struggles with high numbers of pill mill busts. The medical associations opposing the bill are passionate in preserving the practice of medicine for the physician. In the end, opponents were granted their wish.

To read more on House Bill 7113, click here for a previous blog.

Even though the bill did not pass this legislative session, we expect this will not be the end of the fight to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical 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?

Is providing a trained nurse practitioner with greater authority to treat and prescribe really a controversial subject? How do you stand on the topic? What benefits or dangers could arise from providing nurses with greater independence? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

“Health Bill Dies in Florida Legislature.” Modern Healthcare. (May 3, 2014). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140503/INFO/305039930

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Will Florida Senate Be Pressured into Expanding the Authority of Nurses?

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

On April 28, 2014, the Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill giving nurse practitioners greater autonomy to diagnose and treat patients without doctors’ oversight. Connecticut is one out of 17 states and the District of Columbia to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians. Similar measures are pending in several other states, including Florida.

The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill (CS/CS/HB 7113) on April 25, 2014, that expands the range of practice for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). The bill is expected to be heard in the Florida Senate soon. If passed, this policy shift would likely lead to profound changes in the way health care is practiced in Florida.

Details of the Florida Bill.

Currently, in Florida, nurse practitioners must work under the supervision of physicians. This bill would change the title of what are usually called nurse practitioners or advanced registered nurse practitioners. These are registered nurses who have post-college education, usually a master’s degree. The proposed change would retitle these health professionals to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

These nurses would gain new authority under the bill, such as the ability to sign documents that now require a physician’s signature, and the opportunity to earn the title “Independent Advance Practice Registered Nurse” after a certain amount of training and experience. Nurse practitioners would no longer have to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. Another somewhat controversial aspect of the bill is to allow these nurses to gain the authority to prescribe controlled substances.

Increasing Pressure to Pass Similar Bill.

The present Florida bill is being supported as a means to fulfill the anticipated growing need for medical services expected with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Especially in certain segments of the medical population, APRNs are already providing a large amount of this care, and the bill acknowledges and grants the authority for this.

With so many states, especially up in the northeast, agreeing to expand the scope of practice to qualified nurse practitioners, we wonder if this will have an effect on the Senate vote in Florida. Snow birds coming to Florida will be comfortable being treated by nurse practitioners and will expect the same level of care when they come down to the Sunshine State.

Opposition May Kill the Bill.

The opposition to this effort is strong and vocal, with the various state medical associations leading the way. For these groups, the issue is one of preservation of the practice of medicine as the domain of the physician. They are accepting of medical practice by physician “extenders,” but not by “providers” who are not physicians. The members of these opposition groups are a formidable force, respected in their communities and able to make significant political contributions. These are not groups that many legislators would want to rankle.

However, a review of the history of medicine in the United States shows that this is a battle the medical doctors are likely to lose. Similar arguments have been made in the past when other types of health care practitioners have sought legal authority to practice their professions. Immediately coming to mind are osteopathic physicians (D.O.s), chiropractic physicians (D.C.s) and midwives (CMs) to name a few. Some have had to bring antitrust lawsuits to obtain relief.

Be sure to check this blog regularly for updates to this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the bill? Do you think nurse practitioners should have more autonomy? Or do you believe nurse practitioners should be supervised by physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Altimari, Daniela. “State Moves to Give Nurses Independence From Doctors.” The Courant. (April 28, 2014). From: http://www.courant.com/health/connecticut/hc-aprn-bill-20140428,0,7595375.story

Catala, Paul. “Bill Giving Nurses More Authority Passes House.” Highlands Today. (April 28, 2014). From: http://highlandstoday.com/hi/local-news/bill-giving-nurses-more-authority-passes-house-20140429/

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 Nurse Practitioners Fight for Autonomy

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

On February 18, 2014, a bill that would expand the authority of nurse practitioners and would allow some to practice independently of physicians was approved by the Florida House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovations. Despite opposition from physician groups, the bill (PCB SCHCWI 14-01) was overwhelmingly approved 13 to 2. However, some of that support might be fleeting.

To read bill PCB SCHCWI 14-01, click here.

Details of the Bill.

Currently, nurse practitioners work under the supervision of physicians. This bill would change the title of what are usually called nurse practitioners, which are registered nurses who have post-college education, usually a master’s degree, to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). The bill would also apply to specialists, such as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), certified nurse midwives and certified nurse practitioners.

These nurses would gain new powers under the bill, such as the ability to sign documents that now require a physician’s signature, and the opportunity to earn the title “Independent Advance Practice Registered Nurse” after a certain amount of training and experience. Nurse practitioners would no longer have to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. Another controversial aspect of the bill is to allow these nurses to gain the authority to prescribe controlled substances. Currently, Florida is one of the few states that do not allow this.

Supporters and Opponents Cannot Agree.

Even though the vote drew bipartisan support, several committee members said their support was tentative, and that they wanted to see further debate and amendments.

According to Health News Florida, the President of the Florida Senate reported he opposes the House bill. Many physician groups, including the Florida Medical Association, agree. These groups point out that physicians receive years of additional training to provide care. They also raise the question why students would want to rack up huge amounts of debt to attend medical school if they could do much of the same work as nurse practitioners with less schooling.

Supporters state this bill will help increase access to primary care, particularly in rural areas. Nurse practitioners also state they already provide much of the care that physician groups bill for. It’s argued that similar laws are already in place in a majority of states around the country, according to The News Service of Florida. To read the entire article from The News Service of Florida, click here.

Expanded Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners Already Working in Other States.

According to Health News Florida, 23 other states already allow independent practice for nurse practitioners. Also, military services and the Veterans Administration Health System, already allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled drugs and allow independent practice. Florida is the only state that prohibits nurse practitioners from prescribing controlled substances.

According to Health News Florida, the issue is not expected to be considered during the upcoming Legislative session. Click here to read the entire Health News Florida article.

Be sure to check this blog regularly for updates to this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced registered nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the bill? Do you think nurse practitioners should have more autonomy? Or do you believe nurse practitioners should be supervised by physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Saunders, Jim. “Nurse Practitioners Win First Round In Fight Over ‘Scope.'” The News Service of Florida. (February 22, 2014). From: http://www.theledger.com/article/20140222/NEWS/140229772/1374?Title=Nurse-Practitioners-Win-First-Round-In-Fight-Over-8216-Scope

Gentry, Carol. “Senate Pres.: No On Nurses’ Bill.” Health News Florida. (February 24, 2014). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/senate-pres-no-nurses-bill

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 Fight for Lawmakers to Relax Laws Requiring Doctors to Oversee Their Work

CCS Blog LabelBy Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

There’s a controversial tug-of-war in the health care industry. According to The Washington Post, in 11 states nursing groups are pushing legislation that would permit nurses with master’s degrees or higher to order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and administer treatments without the supervision of a physician. Similar legislation is likely to be introduced in three other states. Currently, each state decides how much supervision nurses must receive from physicians.

This legislation faces strong opposition from physicians, led by the American Medical Association (AMA). This is according to an article in The Washington Post, published on March 24, 2013. Click here to read that article.

The Fight for Autonomy.

According to The Washington Post, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and other nursing groups are coordinating this legislation effort. These groups are receiving support from consumer advocates and state officials concerned about the possible doctor shortage.

Physicians’ groups are arguing that with little or no supervision, patient care will be compromised, according to a Bloomberg News article. The physicians’ strongest argument is the difference in education between them and advanced practice nurses (APNs). To read the Bloomberg News article, click here.

Difference in Education.

Advanced practice nurses obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing, then spend between two and three years studying for a master’s degree. A master’s program includes extensive clinical training in addition to class work. One additional year of school is needed to get a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree.

Physicians obtain a bachelor’s degree, then continue on with four years of medical school. This is followed by at least three years in a residency program.

Laws for Nurse Supervision Differ State-by-State.

Each state regulates how much oversight nurse practitioners must have. According to Bloomberg News, in 16 states, including Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington, nurses can evaluate and diagnose patients, order diagnostic tests and prescribe drugs. Nurses in these states can start a practice or work in a clinic with no physician present.

Florida and Alabama nurses can’t prescribe controlled substances, including medications for pain, insomnia and attention deficit disorder and must have a supervisory agreement in place with a physician supervisor. Their practice is limited by what the physician places in the agreement.

Court Cases of Nurses vs. Doctors.

According to Bloomberg News, physicians in Iowa sued the state in 2010, after it allowed nurses with advanced training to perform a fluoroscopy, which is a radiographic procedure that takes pictures inside the body. The physicians do not believe nurses have the proper training to carry out this procedure. The case is before the Iowa Supreme Court after a lower court sided with the physicians.

Physicians sued the state of Colorado when the governor allowed nurse anesthetists to work without supervision. An appeals court sided with the nurses in 2012. There is a discussion of this case on our blog. Click here to read it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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

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 nurses with advanced degrees should be allowed to practice without the supervision of physicians? Do you think it is necessary for patient care for physicians to be present? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pettypiece, Shannon. “Nurse Practitioners, Doctors in Tug-of-War Over Patients.” Bloomberg Business Week. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/100802-nurse-practitioners-doctors-in-tug-of-war-over-patients

Aizenman, N.C. “Nurses Can Practice Without Physician Supervision in Many States.” The Washington Post. (March 24, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nurses-can-practice-without-physician-supervision-in-many-states/2013/03/24/98b241cc-8745-11e2-999e-5f8e0410cb9d_story.html

About the Authors: Carole C. Schriefer 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.

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 Senate Delays Broadening Baker Act Powers for Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants-Calls for a Study

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

Florida’s nurse practitioners and physician assistants were hopeful the Senate would vote to allow them to have the authority to order the involuntary commitment of a patient for mental-health evaluation under the Baker Act. However, instead on April 15, 2013, the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee passed the formation of a work group to figure out how to improve the more than 40-year-old Florida mental health act.

Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Want to Broaden Their Powers.

Currently, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can perform an evaluation, but cannot sign off on voluntary or involuntary examination paperwork to admit someone to treatment under the Baker Act. Instead, they must wait for a physician or law enforcement official to perform another evaluation and sign the paperwork. As this process is going on, the patient is free to go, meaning that person may leave the health facility before receiving the care they need.

Work Group Will Measure the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Baker Act.

The work group established by the senate must determine the necessary revisions that need to be made to improve the Baker Act. The group must file a report on their findings by January 14, 2014.

In a Tampa Bay Times article, senators voiced their concerns about the Baker Act, but said they wanted to know exactly what happens after a person is committed and the type of treatment patients receive. In the same Tampa Bay Times article, members of the Florida Association for Nurse Practitioners said the state’s 1,300 nurse practitioners are hoping for a decision this year. To read the entire article from the Tampa Bay Times, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, cardiologists, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid 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.

Comments?

Do you think nurse practitioners and physician assistants should have the right to order involuntary commitment of a patient? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Koff, Rochelle and Stone, Richard. “Senate Committee Calls for Study of Baker Act Instead of Expanding Roles of Nurse Practitioners.” Tampa Bay Times. (April 15, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/senate-committee-calls-for-study-of-baker-act–instead-of-expanding-role/2115307

Curington, Jennifer. “Measure Would Broaden Powers Under Baker Act.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 11, 2013). From April 11, 2013, issue of Orlando Sentinel, Local News, B3.

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 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.