Nurses: Don’t Work at an Illegal Health Care Clinic

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

Despite the passage of Florida’s Health Care Clinic Act over nine years ago, there are still many health practices which are violating it. Unfortunately, the violation of the Health Care Clinic Act can have serious repercussions, including conviction of a felony, loss of all fees collected, and disciplinary/licensure action against any nurses or other licensed health professionals working there.

Over the past three years we have seen the following scenarios or ones similar to these (changed factually to ensure anonymity):

Scenario 1: A health care practitioner licensed in Florida decides to sell her practice and retire. Three non-licensed business people decide to form a corporation to purchase and operate the practice. The corporation purchases the medical practice’s assets, including patient records. The corporation has not applied for or received a health care clinic license.

Results: On the day of closing or the day the practice is transferred to the new corporation, the corporation is operating illegally, in violation of Florida law. Each day of operation is a separate felony.

Scenario 2: A health care professional practices medicine through a limited liability company (LLC) which the he owns with his non-licensed wife. The health care professional dies and his wife remains sole owner of the practice, hiring a locum tenens physician to come in and treat patients.

Results: As of the date of death of the health care professional, the practice is operating illegally, in violation of Florida law. Each day of operations is a separate felony offense.

Scenario 3: A health care professional licensed in Florida operates a medical practice as a sole proprietorship. The health care professional desires to reward her practice manager, a non-licensed business person, by making him a partner in her practice. The practice continues to operate as before without a health care clinic license.

Results: The practice is operating illegally as of the day the practice manager is made a partner.

Scenario 4: A health care professional has a medical practice which he owns and operates through a business corporation which does not need or have a health care clinic license. He decides to relocate to another state. He sells the shares of stock to a medical doctor who is licensed in Georgia, but is not licensed in Florida. The new physician owner hires a medical doctor licensed in Florida to deliver all medical services in the Florida practice.

Results: The corporation, its owner, and the physician employee are operating illegally as of the date the shares in the corporation are transferred. Each day of operation constitutes a new offense.

The consequences of such actions are severe. The act provides that violating it constitutes a felony of the third degree for each day of operation. Any licensed health professional having knowledge of the unlicensed status of the practice or clinic and who does not immediately report it can be disciplined by his or her professional board. Any fees of any kind collected from any source, Medicare, Medicaid, insurers, or cash from patients, are considered illegal as a matter of law and are subject to recoupment or refund.

If you are a nurse or other licensed health professional, be sure you know who the actual owners of the medical practice are. If any are not licensed in Florida, inquire as to the existence of a current, valid health care clinic license from the Agency for Health Care Administration. If any doubt or suspicion, consult with an experienced health care attorney.

Don’t Wait Too Late;  Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney At the Onset of Any Issue

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in representing nurses, nurse practitioners, and CRNAs in investigations, IPN matters and 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.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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. 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

Florida HB 0653 Signed Into Law; Effective 2/1/2012

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

The Florida Legislature unanimously passed HB 653 which relaxes some of the draconian exclusions enacted under SB 1986, which went into effect on July 1, 2009. SB 1986, which added provisions to Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, among others, prevented numerous healthcare providers from obtaining or renewing licenses based on prior criminal convictions, which could have occurred decades earlier.

HB 653 has been passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature and has been signed by the Governor to be effective July 1, 2012. It has been signed into law as Chapter 2012-64, Florida Laws and amends Section 456.0635(5), Florida Statutes (2012).

Under HB 653, the professional boards within the Department of Health (such as the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Psychology, Board of Massage Therapy, etc.) now will, if signed by the Governor, only prohibit the renewal or granting of a health professional’s license, certificate or registration, if the individual:

1. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under Chapters 409 (Medicaid offenses), 817 (theft or fraud) or 893 (drug offenses), Florida Statutes, or similar laws in other jurisdictions, unless the individual successfully completed a drug court program for the felony and provides proof that the plea was withdrawn or the charges were dismissed, or unless the sentence and any related period of probation for such conviction or plea ended:

– For first and second degree felonies, more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application;

– For third degree felonies, more than ten (10) years before the date of application, except for third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes; and

– For third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes, more than five (5) years before the date of application.

2. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under 21 U.S.C. Sections 801-970 or 42 U.S.C. Sections 1395-1396 (federal Medicare & Medicaid offenses), unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such convictions or plea ended more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application; or

3. Is listed on the OIG’s list of excluded individuals and entities.

This new legislation has the effect of reducing the period of time a health professional may be prohibited from holding a license because of a conviction for one of the enumerated felonies. Under the current law, there is a fifteen (15) year prohibition for all enumerated offenses. The new legislation, if signed, will reduce the period to as little as five (5) years for drug offenses.

However, it also broadens the reach of the current Florida law by including, for the first time, convictions under “similar laws in other jurisdictions.” This may now “catch” many to whom the Florida law did not previously apply.

HB 653 also allows individuals previously denied renewals under SB 1986 who at are now eligible for renewal to obtain a license without retaking and passing their examinations.

The latter requirement above, number 3, may present a “catch 22” for many health professionals. Usually, if a licensed health professional is convicted of a felony, loses his/her license or is denied renewal of a health professional’s license, this is reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB now includes reports previously made to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB). If this occurs, in most cases the Office of Inspector General (OIG) commences action to exclude the professional from the Medicare Program. This automatically places the health provider’s name on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Therefore, most licensed health professionals, even if they are no longer prohibited from holding a license under numbers 1 and 2 above, may still be prohibited because of requirement number 3 above.

Doubtless, this lacuna (gap) in this legislation will require additional corrective legislation in the future.

To view a summary of HB 653, click here.

To view the Bill Analysis of HB 653 from the Health and Human Services Quality Subcommittee, click here.

To view the Bill Analysis of HB 653 from the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, click here.

To view the Bill Analysis of HB 653 from the Health and Human Services Committee, click here.

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 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.

Appealing Final Orders and Emergency Suspension Orders (ESOs)

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

George F. Indest III, 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 to not worry about putting together and presenting a defense or disputing the charges at 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 emergency suspension orders (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 Emergency Suspension Order (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.

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 emergency suspension orders (ESOs) or Final Order than an appeal.  If you are subject to an emergency suspension orders (ESOs), 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.

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 $150 per year.  However, if you can get additional coverage, $50,000 is more likely to cover any foreseeable investigations, hearings and appeals.

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 now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com. to set up a consultation on any of the above issues.

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.

Disclaimer:  This article is for general information and education purposes only and must not be regarded as legal advice.

Copyright © George F. Indest III, Altamonte Springs, Florida, all rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced or used without the permission of the author and owner.

Nurses Beware of a Disciplinary Action Database Called Licensure QuickConfirm

By Christopher E. Brown, J.D.

Nurses, did you know the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) maintains a database of all state disciplinary actions?  This database, called Licensure QuickConfirm, lists all disciplinary actions from the Florida Board of Nursing and forty-six (46) other state boards. It is frequently used by hospitals and medical groups to screen potential employees.

To search the Licensure QuickConfirm list, click here.

Information Comes From the Boards of Nursing.

According to the website, all information listed on the database comes directly from the boards of nursing. A report will contain:– the nurse’s name, – licensed jurisdiction,

– license type

– license number,

– compact status (single state or multistate),

– license original issue date,

– license expiration date,

– discipline against license, and

– discipline against privilege to practice.

Check Your Profile Immediately.

If you have recently received discipline from the Florida Board of Nursing, or any other state board of nursing, it would be prudent to immediately check this website to verify that any information listed under your profile is accurate.  The website clearly states that it is the nurse’s responsibility to contact the board of nursing to update his or her information.

Our law firm recently encountered errors on this database that our client contended caused him lost employment opportunities.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

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

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

About the Author: Christopher E. Brown, 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

“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.

Adverse Consequences of Discipline Against Your Nursing License

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

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

Investigation and Discipline of Other State Licenses.

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

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

Discipline Against Other Types of Licenses.

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

Discipline Will be Reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

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

Possible Loss of Certification.

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

Loss of Employment Opportunities.

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

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

Most nursing malpractice insurance policies are very inexpensive and provide excellent coverage. Most contain insurance coverage that will pay for an attorney and other legal defense expenses if you are being investigated or charged with a licensure offense. Buy this. You should have at least $25,000 in coverage for such investigations and administrative proceedings. $50,000 in coverage would be better, even if you must pay extra or buy additional coverage.

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Board of Nursing Cases.

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

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

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

Preserving Your Nursing License: Alternatives to Conviction, Nolo Contendere or Adjudication Withheld

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

As if being faced with the consequences of criminal charges wasn’t frightening enough, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other health professionals have the added danger of having their licenses disciplined or revoked if they plead nolo contendere or guilty to a criminal charge

Whether you are applying for a new license to practice or have been practicing for years you are under an obligation to report “convictions” and “pleas” to the board that governs your profession.  The normal definition of a “conviction” is not the same as the Department of Health (DOH) and the various professional boards use.

Pursuant to Section 456.072, Florida Statutes, licensed healthcare providers can be disciplined for all of the following dispositions of a criminal case:

– Actual conviction (by a judge or jury)

– Entering a plea of guilty

– Entering a plea of nolo contendere 

– Adjudication Withheld

Click here to see Section 456.072, F.S.

That’s right, adjudication withheld and nolo contendere pleas are all treated the same as a conviction as far as your professional license is concerned.

While these alternative means of disposing of a criminal case may be beneficial or expedient for the average citizen, healthcare practitioners have to think of what those dispositions mean for their license.

Don’t give up hope yet though, there is an alternative that will permit your criminal case to be favorably disposed of and allow you to potentially avoid discipline to your professional license.  That alternative is pretrial intervention (PTI) programs, sometimes referred ti as “PTI” or “PTIO.”

What Is Pretrial Intervention (PTI)?

PTI is a diversion program for those accused of certain types of crimes that, if successfully completed, results in the criminal charges being dismissed.  The best part of this option is that it does not require the defendant to enter any plea.

Individuals who are enrolled in PTI programs are on a sort of quasi-probation.  The criminal case against them is continued (put on hold) while the PTI program is running.  Typical conditions of PTI supervision require periodic reporting, drug screening, mental health or substance abuse counseling, community service, and payment of supervision fees.

Who Is Eligible For PTI?

Eligibility for entry into PTI programs is governed by Sections 948.08 and 948.16, Florida Statutes.

To see Section 948.08, F.S., or Section 948.16, F.S., click the links.

Generally, any first time offender, or any person who has previously been convicted of not more than one nonviolent misdemeanor or third-degree felony is eligible for PTI so long as the following requirements are met:

1. The defendant has voluntarily agreed to participate in PTI,

2. Consent of the victim,

3. Consent of the prosecutor, and

4. Consent of the judge who presided at the initial appearance.

Should the offense for which the practitioner is facing charges be related to controlled substances, the statute offers additional eligibility criteria:

1. Those charged with nonviolent felonies and are identified as having a substance abuse problem; or,

2. Those who are charged with felonies of the second or third degree for purchase or possession of a controlled substance, or obtaining a prescription by fraud; and

3. Who have not been previously convicted of a felony, nor admitted to a felony PTI program.

Similar programs are available for those having substance abuse problems who are charged with nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, or those who are charged with misdemeanor possession of drugs or alcohol, prostitution, or possession without a prescription.

Benefits of PTI.

PTI may seem like more of a hassle for minor offenses than simply accepting a plea or adjudication withheld.  This may be true for the average person, but licensed health professionals have to take into account the professional consequences that come from a conviction, or other similar dispositions of the case. These include actions against their license, reports to certification bodies, reports to health facilities in which they are licensed and reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or other data banks.

The most important thing to remember about PTI is successful completion of the program results in the charges being dismissed!

This means you don’t have to report anything to your board and there will be no discipline on your license.  Furthermore, you can later apply to have the arrest expunged (if you are otherwise eligible).

The benefits of entry into a PTI program by a healthcare practitioner cannot really be overstated.  The disciplinary process is often long and extremely costly.  The effects of discipline on your license can follow you for the remainder of your career and is publicly available to anyone who cares to look.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Licensure Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced healthcare attorney who can advise you and your criminal counsel as to the effects a potential outcome could have on your license.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in licensure matters.  We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while at the same time preserving the practitioner’s license.

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

Sources:

Section 948.08, Florida Statutes

Section 948.16, Florida Statutes

Section 456.072, Florida Statutes

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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.

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.

Almost 19% of Nurse Aides Charged with Abuse and Neglect, had Prior Criminal Records

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

A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) on October 5, 2012, found that nineteen percent (19%) of long-term care nurse aides who were found guilty of on-the-job abuse, neglect or property theft in 2010 had prior criminal records that would have showed up on a background check.

Click here to read the entire report from the HHS OIG.

Report is Part of the Affordable Care Act Background Check Program.

Section 6201 of the Affordable Care Act establishes a background check program. This voluntary program gives grants to states that support nursing home employee background checks.

The report was released to assess the ability of the background check program to help decrease the number of neglect, abuse and misappropriation of resident property cases.

Majority of Nurse Aides Convicted of Burglary, Larceny and Other Crimes.

Out of 1,611 nurse aides charged with abuse, neglect or property theft in 2010, 300 nurse aides had at least one prior criminal conviction. The Inspector General (IG) found the majority of disciplined nurse aides with records had been convicted of burglary, larceny or other crimes against property.

Of the 300 nurse aides, 170 of them had at least one conviction prior to their date of registration as a nurse aide. The remaining 130 nurse aides, each had at least one conviction after the date of their registration.

In a National Public Radio (NPR) story, a nursing professor from the University of California, San Francisco, said she is “most disturbed by the fact that nursing homes had hired some aides who’d been convicted of serious crimes.”

Click here to read the NPR article.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Nurse Aides.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses and nurse aides 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?

As a nurse, nursing aide or any other health professional, what do you think of this report? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Schultz, David. “Among Disciplined Nurse Aides, Criminal Records Turn Up.” NPR. (October 11, 2012). From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/10/11/162636910/among-disciplined-nurse-aides-criminal-records-turn-up

Wright. Stuart. “Criminal Convictions for Nurses Aides With Substantiated Findings of Abuse, Neglect, and Misappropriation.” Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. (October 5, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Criminal%20Convictions%20for%20nurses%20aides.pdf

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.

 

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