The nursing profession in the State of Arkansas is governed by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing (ASBN) which was founded in 1913 to protect the public and regulate nursing practice. It develops standards of safe nursing care, approves nursing schools and regulates licenses to practice nursing. The ASBN is also responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act and other rules and regulations governing the education and regulation of nurses, as well as nursing practices within the state.
The nursing profession in Arkansas is tightly controlled by The Board, with the authority to deny, suspend, revoke or limit the license of any nurse who has violated the Nurse Practice Act. They will pursue and investigate any valid complaint that is filed. Any censure approved by the board could seriously affect your nursing reputation and your future prospects of employment. If you have been notified that a complaint has been filed against you, you should immediately enlist the help of an Arkansas nursing license defense lawyer to defend your case.
Misdemeanors Under the Nurse Practice Act
Under the Nurse Practice Act (NPA), it is a misdemeanor to:
- Practice nursing with a fraudulently obtained license, certificate, diploma or other qualification
- Sell or fraudulently obtain such records
- Practice nursing without a valid license issued by the ASBN
- Use any title for which the nurse is not registered
- Practice nursing while a license is suspended
- Conduct nursing training or education unless such a program has been approved by the Board
- Prescribe any drug or medicine without the prescriptive authority to do so
The Act makes provision for a fine of between $25 and $500 for a first offence. Subsequent offences may be punishable by a fine an imprisonment of up to 30 days. In addition, the ASBN may impose a civil penalty of up to $1000 against a serious offender.
The most common types of violations and basis for complaint are:
- Addiction or the abuse of drugs
- Unprofessional conduct
- Fraudulent activities
Any complaint filed with the ASBN must be reviewed. As a nominated offender, you initial may be to refute the allegations. No matter how trivial you perceive the complaint to be, you are strongly advised to contact a nursing license defense lawyer for help. What appears to be a trivial complaint to you may have the potential to pose a significant danger to the retention of your professional license, career and reputation.
Steps to Take After Receiving Notification of a Complaint Against You
Any complaint made against you has the potential to have a devastating effect on your career and ability to work, and must never be taken lightly. One of the worst case scenarios, where your license may be revoked, may find you unable to secure employment as a nurse in any other state. It is therefore essential that you take the right steps to protect yourself, your reputation and professional license:
- Contact your Arkansas nursing license defense lawyer immediately after receiving notification. It is critical that you do not respond to the ASBN before you have consulted your attorney. Your instinctive reaction may be to respond immediately to refute the allegation, especially if you perceive the allegation to be false. Instead, seek help from your nursing license defense lawyer and allow him to handle your case from then on.
- Do not attempt to defend the complaint without legal help. Though the complaint may seem to be petty and easily defended, you have no idea what other evidence an investigator may unearth if the Board decides to proceed. If you attempt to run your own defense, you risk severe penalties and the loss of your reputation or your license.
- Make a note of every detail you can remember. Make a record of all interactions and communication with the complainant while the details are still fresh in your memory, and gather all relevant documentation to give to your attorney. Your lawyer will need to rely on your accurate recall to support your defense as the investigation proceeds.
- Discuss the case with no-one except your lawyer. The cardinal rule is not to contact the complainant, although you may be sorely tempted to do so to get an explanation for the complaint. As a nurse, you may feel deeply offended by receiving a complaint, especially if you are truly dedicated to your profession. However, the best course of action is not to discuss the complaint with anyone and allow your nursing license defense lawyer to do his job.
Complaint Processing by the ASBN
A complaint can be filed by anyone against a nurse who is perceived to have violated the NPA. A complainant may be a member of the public, patient, associates, other nurses or medical professionals. Complaints must be filed in writing and may be done anonymously. They must include the name of the offending nurse and details of the alleged violation. On receipt, the ASBN will review the submission to determine if there is sufficient evidence to conduct a formal investigation. If so, the case is assigned to one of the Board’s investigators and the offending nurse will be notified of an impending investigation.
Depending on the nature of the complaint or misdemeanor, the investigator assigned to a case could be:
- A licensed nurse registered with the ASBN
- A pharmacist or licensed nurse from Pharmacy Services and Drug Control of the Health Department
- An agent from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- A local law enforcement officer
- An investigator contracted with the ASBN
- An agent of the Attorney General’s Office: Medicaid Fraud Division
The investigator will gather and review all relevant documents pertaining to the case. The alleged offender, complainant and all witnesses will be interviewed before the investigator compiles a report for submission to the Board for review and disciplinary action. Under the federal Freedom of Information Act of 1967, the fact that an investigation is underway will be made public.
Possible Disciplinary Outcomes for a Professional Nursing License Defense Case
On completing of an investigation and review by the ASBN there several possible outcomes for disciplinary action:
- Complaint dismissal. This is non-disciplinary action whereby the Board will dismiss the complaint and close the case if they find insufficient evidence to support it.
- Warning letter. No disciplinary action will be taken, but you may receive a letter of warning to alert you to be vigilant and avert the potential for a violation.
- Letter of reprimand. This is a formal disciplinary action that will be reflected on your license. The ASBN may require you to receive further education or training in connection with the offense.
- Consent agreement. This is an agreement between you and the Board after you admit a violation. You may retain your license which may reflect this disciplinary action. The ASBN can also impose a fine, attend classes or participate in a drug screening process if appropriate.
Formal Hearing Before the ASBN
In certain cases where a case remains unresolved or you are unhappy with the outcome, the matter may be presented to the Board at a formal hearing. You will receive formal notice of this hearing, enabling you and your Arkansas nursing license defense lawyer to prepare your case. During the hearing the ASBN is entitled to question you and hear all evidence before coming to a decision. There are several possible outcomes:
- Not guilty. You are completely cleared of any violation of the Act.
- Reprimand. Being found guilty of misdemeanor, you retain your license, but may be subject to a fine and be required to attend courses.
- Probation. Found guilty of a violation, you may be allowed to keep your license under certain conditions. The ASBN may also impose a fine and other stipulations.
- Suspension. Your license may be suspended until certain conditions imposed by the Board are met. During this period you may not practice as a nurse.
- Revocation. The violation may be found to be so serious that your license is permanently revoked. This means that you will be permanently prevented from practicing nursing in Arkansas.
You have the right to appeal any decision of the ASBN to the circuit court of the county in which you reside, or to the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, within 30 days of the Board’s decision.
We Can Help You to Fight for Your Nursing License
At Denton & Zachary, our trial lawyers have built up a solid reputation for defending nurses and other professionals. We are respected for our ability to resolve cases quickly while achieving the best outcomes for our clients. Our practice is headquartered in Conway, Arkansas and is licensed to defend actions in several jurisdictions within the state, including Little Rock.
Once you retain our services, we are committed to doing everything we have to, to protect your reputation and avoid the loss of your license. As professional nursing license defense lawyers, we understand the threat that a formal complaint can pose to your career. Contact us today to ensure your livelihood is protected.