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Are you being investigated as a nurse for unprofessional conduct?

October 29, 2015
Est read time: 4 minutes

Have you received an administrative complaint against your nursing license for unprofessional conduct under the rules, such as leaving a nursing assignment without notice, violating patient confidentiality, discrimination, or using force against a patient? If you have, it is very important that you contact an experienced health care attorney to go over the charges. These charges are serious and can have a negative impact on your license and your ability to practice nursing in Florida.

The Law

The law says that you could face discipline for unprofessional conduct determined by rules of the Board of Nursing. The Florida law on point here is Florida Statute 464.018(1)(h). The statute says in particular the following:

(1) The following acts constitute grounds for denial of a license or disciplinary action, as specified in s. 456.072(2):

(h) Unprofessional conduct, as defined by board rule.

The board has defined unprofessional conduct in Rule 64B9-8.005 of the Florida Administrative Code. In particular, the rules relevant here are 64B9-8.005(3), (7), (8), and (13). Those rules state the following

Unprofessional conduct shall include:

(3) Leaving a nursing assignment without advising licensed nursing personnel;

(7) Violating the confidentiality of information or knowledge concerning a patient;

(8) Discriminating on the basis of race, creed, religion, sex, age or national origin, in the rendering of nursing services as it relates to human rights and dignity of the individuals;

(13) Using force against a patient, striking a patient, or throwing objects at a patient;

There are several rules here that can result in a violation of the statute. If you were to leave a nursing assignment without telling other personnel, that could be a violation. Violating the confidentiality concerning patient information or what you know of a patient could be a violation of the rule. Discriminating against a patient could be a violation of the rule. Discrimination covered here includes race, religion, sex, creed, age, or national origin. Using force against a patient such as hitting a patient, or throwing something at them can be a violation of this rule. This should be distinguished from using threatening language against the patient, which is covered in a different blog. If you violate these rules of professional conduct, Florida statute allows for disciplinary action to be taken against your nursing license. If you have had complaints made against your license for violation of this statute, you should contact an experienced health care attorney immediately to go over your options. There can be severe repercussions for you if you wait.

Penalties

There are a range of actions that can be taken against you should the board of nursing decide to take disciplinary action against you. The penalties you could face are found in the Disciplinary Guidelines for the Board of Nursing, particularly in Rule 64B9-8.006 in the Florida Administrative Code. The rule states the following for disciplinary guidelines for violation of the statute:

 MINIMUM:MAXIMUM:
FIRST OFFENSE:Reprimand, $250 fine, and continuing education

 

$500 fine and probation
SECOND OFFENSE:$750 fine and probationRevocation

The minimum penalty you could face for a violation of this statute is a reprimand, $250 fine, and continuing education. Note here that you could face additional discipline if you fail to complete continuing education requirements. Please visit the blog on continuing education requirements for a discussion concerning those. The penalties increase as you go along in the process, and if you are found to have violated the statute a second time, you could have your nursing license revoked. This is very serious. You should also be aware that these are guidelines that the board should follow in handing out discipline, but are not set in stone, and can be accompanied by other penalties or deviated from. These penalties can be found in Florida Statute 456.072(2), which you should review with your health care attorney.

Aggravating/Mitigating Circumstances

The board hearing your case can take into account various factors that could affect the discipline you receive. These factors are called aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances are factors that can hurt your case. If aggravating circumstances are proven you could face harsher penalties. Mitigating circumstances are factors that can help your case. If mitigating circumstances are proven you could face lesser penalties. These factors can also be found in rule 64B9-8.006(5)(b) in the Florida Administrative Code. If either side can prove with clear and convincing evidence the aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the discipline you face could be altered by the board. Here are the factors:

(b) Circumstances which may be considered for purposes of mitigation or aggravation of penalty shall include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. The danger to the public.
  2. Previous disciplinary action against the licensee in this or any other jurisdiction.
  3. The length of time the licensee has practiced.
  4. The actual damage, physical or otherwise, caused by the violation.
  5. The deterrent effect of the penalty imposed.
  6. Any efforts at rehabilitation.
  7. Attempts by the licensee to correct or stop violations, or refusal by the licensee to correct or stop violations.
  8. Cost of treatment.
  9. Financial hardship.
  10. Cost of disciplinary proceedings.

The board can take into account any of these factors, or other factors, in your hearing. The board can deviate from the standard disciplinary guidelines if they find that any of these aggravating or mitigating circumstances exist. These are very important factors that you should discuss with your health care attorney.

Conclusion

If you are a licensed health care professional in Florida and have received an administrative complaint for violation of the statutes, you are probably concerned about how this may affect your license.  To set up a FREE no obligation consultation with Jeff Howell contact the law firm of Howell, Buchan & Strong, Attorneys at Law at 850-877-7776.  We represent licensed health care professionals and facilities statewide, including out of state clients who are concerned about the status of their Florida license.

Have Questions? Let's Talk

Contact the law firm of Howell, Buchan & Strong at 850-877-7776 to set up a FREE no-obligation consultation. Our firm represents physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other licensed professionals statewide.
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