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FL May Allow Providers to Avoid Past Mental-Health Conditions, Drug Issues on License Applications

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

Health care professionals ask patients about their medical histories every day for in treating them. But what happens when they are requested to divulge in their own history to the state as part of the licensing process? Before being licensed in the state of Florida, for example, health care providers are required to disclose if they have been treated for mental-health or substance-abuse disorders within in the past five years. However, this could be changing very soon.

Changes to Past Health Questions.

In December 2018, a committee of the Florida Board of Medicine gave preliminary approval to eliminate questions about past treatment of mental health and substance abuse from applications for medical licenses in Florida. Rather, applicants would be asked only whether they currently have any condition that impairs them from safely practicing.

Medical history questions are asked during the initial application for license, whether the applicant is a new physician or a physician from another state who is seeking a Florida license. This is true for most states. The new questions are designed to be more open-ended and lend themselves to subjective answers.

The proposal to change the initial application questions comes after several studies revealed an alarming suicide rate among physicians and medical students. According to a 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, between 300 and 400 physicians commit suicide each year.

Despite these numbers, the proposal still requires full board approval and faces opposition from some board members.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about rising baker acts among college students in Florida.

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.

Sources:

Sexton, Christine. “Florida doctors may avoid revealing past mental-health and drug-abuse issues.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 16, 2019). Web.

“Change Seeks To Remove ‘Stigma’ For Doctors.” Health News Florida. (January 16, 2019). Web.

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.

KeyWords: Legal representation Board of Medicine cases, Board of Medicine Representation, legal representation for physicians, legal representation for licensure issues, licensure defense lawyer, legal representation for licensure defense, legal representation for medical students, residents and fellows, legal representation for Board of Medicine hearings, legal representation for complaints against license, Medical Board Cases representation, legal representation for nurses, nurse representation, Board of Nursing Representation, Medical Board defense lawyer, Medical Board representation, Florida health law defense attorney, legal representation for U.S. Department of Health (DOH) investigations, employment law defense attorney, legal representation for employment issues, legal representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, health law defense attorney, mental health facility defense counsel, mental health professional defense attorney, psychologist defense counsel and legal representation, social worker legal counsel and mental health counselor defense attorney, legal representation for Credentials Committee of Board of Medicine

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Nurse Accused of Illegally Writing Herself Prescriptions for Painkillers

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Central Florida nurse is in trouble with the law for allegedly writing fake prescriptions and illegally obtaining painkillers for herself, according to the Orlando NBC affiliate, WESH television. The nurse was allegedly arrested during the week of December 31, 2012. She is accused of trafficking in oxycodone and trying to fill forged prescriptions.

Click here to read the WESH article.

Pharmacist Did Not Fall for Fake Prescriptions.

According to an Orlando Sentinel article, a pharmacist, who was suspicious of one of the prescriptions the nurse tried to fill, called the doctor listed on the prescription. The doctor informed the pharmacist that she (the doctor) was the nurse’s employer, and the nurse was not a patient. It was then discovered that the nurse used the names of two doctors at her place of employment. She had stolen the prescriptions to obtain painkillers for herself.

A search of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Database allegedly showed that the nurse had obtained dozens of prescriptions for controlled substances for herself in the past year.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Nurse’s License is Currently Suspended.

According to the Department of Health (DOH) the nurse’s license is currently suspended. A complaint on the nurse’s record also shows that in December 2009, the nurse admitted to stealing pain medication from her patients. Click here to read the entire complaint from the DOH.

Useful Tips on How to Prevent Employees from Stealing.

I recently wrote an article for Medical Economics on how to prevent or detect employee embezzlement in the medical or dental office. It contains valuable information for any small health care practice owner. Topics discussed in the article include: how to recognize embezzlement warning signs, steps to take to safeguard your assets, and the proper way to take action against a suspected embezzler. To read it in its entirety, click here.

I have also written a number of blogs on abuses with narcotics. See my blog on a fake prescription ring busted in Osceola County, and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrest of a doctor allegedly on crack cocaine charges, for example.

 

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

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

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

 

Comments?

As a health professional how do you keep tabs on your important office supplies? How would you handle an employee stealing from your office? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Nurse Charged with Stealing Scripts, Illegally Obtaining Painkillers.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 3, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-01-02/news/os-nurse-arrested-prescription-drugs-20130102_1_fake-prescriptions-prescription-sheets-cvs

WESH-TV. “Nurse Accused of Illegally Obtaining Painkillers.” WESH. (January 3, 2013). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/seminole-county/Nurse-accused-of-illegally-obtaining-painkillers/-/17597106/17995906/-/dmj2se/-/index.html?absolute=true

Department of Health v. Tabetha Terry, R.N. Case Number 2010-13467. Administrative Complaint. (February 22, 2011). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/tabetha%20terry%20complaint.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.

Nursing Liability and Nursing Malpractice – Part 1

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

A wrongful act that causes harm to a person for which the law allows a person to recover is called a “tort.” The most common type of tort is one based on negligence. In order to recover form a tort based on negligence, there are four elements which must be met are that there is an act (or failure to act) in which the following are present: 1) a duty owed by the one performing the act to the one who is harmed; 2) an act (or failure to act) which breaches that duty; 3) actual damage or harm sustained; and causation (in other words, the act or failure to act caused the damage or harm).

Malpractice is just another name for professional negligence. Professional negligence is a tort committed by a licensed professional, in this case a nurse. In order to show nursing malpractice, one must show all of the elements of a negligence tort. The only difference is that in professional negligence, the duty that must be shown is the professional duty that the licensed professional owes to the one injured, in this case, her patient. Accordingly, the duty owed will be one of the nurses professional duties as a nurse.

I will discuss the concept of nursing malpractice further in this two-part blog series.

Defining Negligence.

Negligence is the failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent person would use under similar circumstances.

The law of negligence is part of what is known as “tort” law. The term “tort” originates from the French word meaning “wrong.” The law of negligence therefore deals with injuries or a wrong caused by one person towards another. Most negligence lawsuits are civil, not criminal, cases. A person can be found negligent even though they did not actually intend to harm the inured party, because negligent conduct is the behavior which results in unintended harm.

Defining Medical Malpractice.

Medical malpractice can occur when a health care professional fails to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable health care professional would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. In other words, medical malpractice is negligence committed by a health care professional.

Medical malpractice is a specialized area of law that deals with negligence claims against health care professionals. Medical malpractice is often perceived as conduct which is somehow more egregious than mere negligence. This perception is erroneous because medical malpractice is simply ordinary negligence by a healthcare provider that causes some injury to the patient.

Several years ago nurses were only liable for negligence. Although as nurses exercise more autonomy, their legal liability has changed. Courts in a number of states recognize and identify nursing negligence as a form of medical malpractice.

A Florida lawsuit helps to illustrate this point. In this case, a mother made a routine prenatal visit to the hospital. While in the waiting room the mother complained to the nurse of severe abdominal pain. Over the next hour and a half the mother complained of pain five times, each time she was told that she would have to wait to be examined. When the mother was finally examined her unborn child’s fetal heart rate was only 60 to 70 beats per minute. An emergency cesarean section was performed but the baby was born severely depressed, hypoxic, suffered from severe brain injury and developed seizures within the first hour.

In this case the nurse did not intend to cause harm to the baby or the mother, however the nurses failure to have the patient examined when she complained of severe abdominal pain and her failure to recognize the onset of fetal distress was negligent. A reasonably prudent nurse would have had the patient examined by a physician and recognized signs of fetal distress when the patient complained of acute abdominal pain. The hospital settled this case for $2 million.

The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice.

In order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove each of these four elements:

1. the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care;
2. the defendant breached her duty;
3. the plaintiff incurred an injury, loss or harm; and
4. the defendant’s acts or omissions caused the plaintiff’s injury, loss or harm.

The plaintiff must prove each of these four elements by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely that the defendant committed the medical malpractice than not.

Check the Nursing Law Blog for More.

In the second part of this blog I will go into more detail about the four elements of medical malpractice. Check back next week for that blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Now?

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

What Changes Were Made?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the updates made to the code of ethics? Do you think it will help nurses identify components of real-world problems and analyze the situation effectively?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. 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.

Florida Nurse Allegedly Filled Fake Prescriptions for Painkillers

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

A Central Florida nurse is in trouble with the law for allegedly writing fake prescriptions and illegally obtaining painkillers for herself, according to the Orlando NBC affiliate, WESH television. The nurse was allegedly arrested during the week of December 31, 2012. She is accused of trafficking in oxycodone and trying to fill forged prescriptions.

Click here to read the WESH article.

Pharmacist Did Not Fall For Fake Prescription.

According to an Orlando Sentinel article, a pharmacist, who was suspicious of one of the prescriptions the nurse tried to fill, called the doctor listed on the prescription. The doctor informed the pharmacist that she (the doctor) was the nurse’s employer, and the nurse was not a patient. It was then discovered that the nurse used the names of two doctors at her place of employment. She had stolen the prescriptions to obtain painkillers for herself.

A search of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Database allegedly showed that the nurse had obtained dozens of prescriptions for controlled substances for herself in the past year.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Check the Department of Health (DOH) Website for a Health Provider’s License Status. 

According to the Department of Health (DOH) the nurse’s license is currently suspended. A complaint on the nurse’s record also shows that in December 2009, the nurse admitted to stealing pain medication from her patients.

Preventing Employees from Stealing.

I recently wrote an article for Medical Economics on how to prevent or detect employee embezzlement in the medical or dental office. It contains valuable information for any small health care practice owner. Topics discussed in the article include: how to recognize embezzlement warning signs, steps to take to safeguard your assets, and the proper way to take action against a suspected embezzler. To read it in its entirety, click here.

I have also written a number of blogs on abuses with narcotics. See my blog on a fake prescription ring busted in Osceola County, and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrest of a doctor allegedly on crack cocaine charges, for example.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

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

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

Comments?

As a health professional how do you keep tabs on your important office supplies? How would you handle an employee stealing from your office? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Nurse Charged with Stealing Scripts, Illegally Obtaining Painkillers.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 3, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-01-02/news/os-nurse-arrested-prescription-drugs-20130102_1_fake-prescriptions-prescription-sheets-cvs

WESH-TV. “Nurse Accused of Illegally Obtaining Painkillers.” WESH. (January 3, 2013). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/seminole-county/Nurse-accused-of-illegally-obtaining-painkillers/-/17597106/17995906/-/dmj2se/-/index.html?absolute=true

 

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.

Nursing Liability and Nursing Malpractice – Part 2

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

In this blog I discuss the concept of nursing malpractice. It is the second blog of my two-part series. To read part one, click here.

The Duty of Reasonable Care.

The plaintiff must first show that the nurse had a duty to provide care for the plaintiff. The element of duty is usually straightforward and relatively easy for the plaintiff to prove because once nurses undertake care for their patients they have a clear duty to provide care for that patient in a competent and reasonable manner. Nurses owe a clear duty of care to all of their patients.

Breach of Duty.

When applied to nursing, a breach of a duty occurs when a nurse does, or does not do, what a reasonable nurse would have done under the same, or similar, circumstances. This would mean that the nurse’s care fell below the acceptable standard of care.
The standard of care is a legal concept which reflects how a nurse is expected to act professionally. It incorporates the expectation that nurses conduct themselves with the degree of care, skill and knowledge that reasonably competent nurses would exhibit in a similar situation. It is important to remember that the standard represents a minimum level of practice to which nurses must adhere in order to avoid being found negligent. In other words, nurses do not have to exert heroic efforts to perform their job satisfactorily; they are expected to exercise their good judgment, education and training to the best of their ability, under the circumstances. Nursing care that falls below the acceptable standard of care may result in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the nurse. The standard of care is particular to each field of nursing practice. For instance, orthopedic nurses determine the standard of care for orthopedic nurses.

Injury or Damage.

To prove the element of injury the plaintiff must be able to establish that, in addition to pain and suffering, they have experienced a physical injury, lost money or have an actual reduction in the quality of their life. The injury which the plaintiff suffered will help to determine the monetary damages that will be awarded if the plaintiff succeeds at trial.

Causation.

Causation is often the most difficult element of medical malpractice to prove. In order to prove that the defendant caused their injury, loss or harm, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s act or omission either caused, or was a substantial factor in causing, harm to the plaintiff. If the defendant proves that the harm would have occurred anyway, irrespective of the defendant’s act or omission, then the negligence action will fail for lack of causation.

Sources for the Standard of Care.

Where do nursing standards come from, and who decides what the standard of nursing care should be in each particular medical malpractice case? The answer is that the sources for nursing practice standards are varied. The court relies on some or all of theses sources to help determine the applicable standard of care in each individual case.
Some of these sources for nursing standards include:

1. Florida Nurse Practice Act, Chapter 464, Florida Statutes;
2. Other Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code;
3. Case law;
4. Principles, guidelines and standards of professional associations such as the American Nursing Association (ANA);
5. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO);
6. Hospital Policies;
7. Standards of Care as testified to by other members of the profession; and
8. Authoritative Nursing Texts and Journals.


Nurse’s Accountability for the Standard of Care.

As a licensed nurse, you are expected to know what the generally accepted standard of care entails and follow that general standard in your daily practice. The policy and procedure manual of your facility should contain nursing care guidelines. However, if the facility you are working in does not adhere or comply with the generally accepted standard of nursing care, then, following the facility’s policies and procedures will not protect you from a charge of malpractice. This is because all nurses are accountable for the nurse’s standard of care. If you are aware that your facility’s policies and procedures are below the generally accepted standard of care, then you should promptly notify your nurse-manager or the risk-control committee of your concerns.

Conclusion.

Over the years nurses are becoming ever more likely targets for plaintiffs, and their attorneys, in medical malpractice cases. It is extremely important for a nurse to know the malpractice laws that encompass the nursing profession. By knowing each element of medical malpractice and the different standards of care that a nurse is held to. A nurse who can adhere to the different standards of care can avoid being held liable for medical malpractice.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Reason:

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

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

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

Reason:

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

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

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

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

Reason:

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

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

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

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

Reason:

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

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

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

Reason:

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

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

Reason:

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

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

Consult With An Experienced Health Law Attorney.

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

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing registered nurses (RNs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse midwives and nurse practitioners in investigations at Board of Nursing hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. 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.
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