Nurses are governed under the regulations and Nursing Practice Act for their state. Violation of these guidelines puts nurses at risk of loss or suspension of licensure. Though each state’s individual regulations may differ, the NCLEX-RN exam is used on a national level as a standard for screening and licensing prospective nurses. While the license disciplinary action rate is low for those in the nursing profession (1%), there are several common mistakes that lead to nurses losing their licenses each year.
Top Reasons for Nursing Licensure Revocation and Suspension
Mistakes are common in any industry, and nursing is no exception. However, in the healthcare profession, simple mistakes can lead to lifelong consequences for patients. As such, nurses are held to a high standard compared to workers in other professions. Though a well-intentioned nurse may lose his or her license for a variety of reasons, disciplinary cases for nurses are typically grouped into the following categories:
- Professional misconduct
- Abuse or sexual misconduct
- Boundary violations or breach of confidentiality
- Substance abuse-related issues
Misconduct refers to actions that disrupt a nurse’s professional image. This could include the use of inappropriate language in front of patients or participating in sexual acts with a superior. Unprofessional or unethical behaviors, as well as frequent arrests, can also be considered misconduct.
Abuse and Sexual Misconduct
Nurses, like other healthcare professionals, owe a duty of care to their patients. When nurses participate in nursing home abuse, abuse toward patients in hospitals, or violence toward patients in long-term care facilities, they can be held accountable for their actions. Abusive behaviors include financial extortion, physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual assault.
Breach of Confidentiality
Under HIPAA, patients have a right to confidentiality regarding their medical records and personal information. When a nurse violates that right by disclosing information without permission, he or she can face license suspension or revocation.
Nurses who participate in recreational drug use, engage in unsafe drinking behaviors, or use substances while working can face disciplinary action. This extends to DUI charges that occur outside of a nurse’s work duties. In addition, diverting or stealing medications can result in license loss and jail time.
Nurses commit fraud when they act deliberately and dishonestly in a way that yields a benefit to themselves or others who would not have otherwise received that benefit. Examples of this include falsifying patient records or misrepresentation of treatments.
Disciplinary Action A Nurse May Face
In addition to revoking a nurse’s license, the state board may seek alternative disciplinary action. A nurse may face fines or civil penalties, or even jail time if his or her actions are particularly egregious. Nurses may be subject to recovery programs, additional supervision, monitoring, remediation, or education depending on the circumstances of the violation. A nurse may face limitations on his or her areas of practice or probation rather than suspension or revocation. Finally, nurses may simply face a temporary suspension or the opportunity to voluntarily surrender their licenses. A nurse facing disciplinary action can seek the legal aid of a license defense attorney to aid in his or her case and reduce the impact on his or her career.