Nursing License Defense
We understand the dedication and hard work it takes to become a nurse and we work hard to help our client protect their nursing licenses. We will work hard to protect your license, reputation and assets while helping to alleviate the stress in defending nursing licensing claims.
Nursing License Disciplinary Process
The disciplinary process usually starts with a complaint filed with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) by a colleague, employer, patient or other interested party. DOH will assign an investigator to the case, who usually has nothing more to go on other than the complaint. Contact a license defense attorney before speaking with the DOH. There is very little time for a nurse to hire an attorney to evaluate the issues before the investigator tries to file a complaint or a hearing is scheduled. Determining what information to provide and what information to to hold back in the investigation stage can be critical, so it is important to retain an attorney early in the process.
If an investigator finds evidence that a nurse has violated the professional code, evidence is submitted to DOH for review. If DOH finds probable cause that grounds for discipline exist, an administrative complaint seeking disciplinary action against the nurse’s license may be filed. Once a complaint if filed, a professional must respond very quickly, and failure to respond will result in the loss of any rights to challenge the action. Objections to the procedures used in reaching the complaint stage must also be made very quickly, so it is critical to contact an attorney quickly upon learning of any investigation or other action.
Nurses have a protected interest in their licenses and are entitled to a hearing before the DOH may take discipline against their licenses. If a nurse receives an administrative complaint or suspension order, he or she must request a hearing. A petition for a hearing must be received within 21 days of the receipt of any complaint. Failure to petition for a hearing before the deadline is a waiver of the right to a hearing, and a waiver to contest discipline. It is therefore critical to timely respond.
The Florida Statutes permit the Department of Health to immediately suspend the license of a nursing professional when the DOH determines that sufficient evidence exists to establish that the professional is a danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public. The circumstances in which such suspensions should be granted are limited, and specific requirements exist for the DOH to immediately suspend a license. When an immediate suspension is issued, the professional may file an appeal with the District Court of Appeal, which must be heard on an expedited basis. There are a number of procedural steps that should be taken, and the appellate court has been fairly strict in ensuring that emergency suspensions are only utilized when necessary, and when no reasonable alternatives exist. Failing to file for the expedited appellate review, however, results in a loss of the right to appeal or challenge the emergency suspension.
Even when an emergency order is issued, the professional still has the right to challenge the allegations in an administrative complaint, and the same processes for challenging allegations apply even when an emergency order is issued. We have found that it is important for attorneys representing a licensed professional to recognize circumstances which could potentially lead to emergency suspensions, and try to take steps to avoid the considerable embarrassment that the issuance of an emergency suspension order can create.
However, if DOH believes the nurse is a danger to the health, safety or welfare of the public, a nursing license may be revoked without a hearing. In those cases, a nurse is entitled to a hearing after the suspension order, but before formal action is taken against the nursing license.
Licensees who receive an administrative complaint may choose to have an informal or formal hearing before final action is taken by the nursing board. Formal hearings are held before an administrative law judge and are conducted in a similar fashion to other trials, and the formal rules of evidence apply. Informal hearings are held before the licensing board. An informal hearing does not permit the licensee to dispute the allegations in the administrative complaint, and instead the facts are deemed admitted in an informal hearing. In a formal hearing, DOH must prove its case by providing clear and convincing evidence, and a number of other protections apply in a formal hearing.
You worked hard for your license, and it is important to protect your career. If you have received notice from the Department of Health or Florida Board of Nursing or are aware of an investigation into your conduct, we urge you to contact us immediately.
The type of hearing that is best for you depends on the facts of your case. Before you submit your petition for a hearing to DOH, contact Delegal Law Offices.
Common Nursing License Matters
We represent nurses who receive a mandatory referral to an impairment program and those who have been accused of having an impairment and are considered contacting Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN.) The IPN program can be beneficial for may practitioners, and is necessary in many circumstances. The alternative to IPN is generally to risk reporting, investigation, and the discipline process. Depending on the facts of your case, IPN may not be appropriate, and we can review your options with you.
Drug Diversion Allegations
Nursing professionals are sometimes accused of drug diversion. Claims drug diversion are made regarding the mishandling of prescription drugs during the course of employment. Such allegations are serious, and can lead to criminal charges, as well as the loss of employment and discipline of a nursing license. Unfortunately, some employers are quick to allege drug diversion without fully investigating the allegations. Charges of drug diversion are extremely serious, and any healthcare professional should retain an attorney to provide representation during the course of an investigation. Decisions regarding whether or not to provide a statement, and how to respond to investigative allegations, are critical and should only be made after consulting with an attorney. For more information, see Drug Diversion.
We admire the dedication and hard work it takes to earn a nursing license and we will fight to help nurses regain their license so that they can return to work. For more information, see Emergency Suspension Orders and Summary Suspension Orders.
Positive Drug Screen
Health care employers generally conduct drug screenings of their employees. Such screenings are necessary to ensure safety in the workplace and the safety of patients. Mistakes, however, can be made in the drug screening process. Depending on the employer, a healthcare employee may be able to challenge the validity of a drug screen in order to prevent termination or other disciplinary action. Further, to the extent that the drug screen does not comply with the Florida Drug Free Workplace Act requirements, it may not be admissible for purposes of disciplinary action by the Department of Health. Healthcare employees who have been confronted with a positive drug screen should consult with an attorney to evaluate their options.
Failure to Report
In Florida, you must report certain criminal matters within 30 days to DOH. For more information, see Failure to Report to Conviction Board.
Questionnaires and Labor Law Issues
Recent Awards: Tad Delegal Presented the 2017 Non-Compete Seminar portion of the Florida Bar's Certification Review Course