I was sued for malpractice in 2002 for a CRNA case I did in March 2000. Now the RN board wants both my licenses (RN and CRNA). I have been in practice since 1962. There are no suits or board complaints against my RN license. Currently, there is one board complaint against my CRNA license in which the accusations are the same as used in the malpractice suit by the same patient and her attorney. The patient sued me after learning the surgeon had no malpractice insurance. I plan to fight the board complaint. My question is, is there a statute of limitations for board complaints? It has been six to eight years. Can they take my RN license if I was practicing as a CRNA on that case?
Nancy Brent replies:
Many nurse practice acts do have a statute of limitations that requires a case reported to the board of nursing to be acted upon by the board within a certain period of time (e.g., five years). If the act does not have such a provision, the board is able to bring a disciplinary action against the licensee at any time after the complaint is received.
Obviously, this can be difficult for both the licensee and the board because proof/evidence of the violation, or the ability to obtain evidence/proof that the violation did not occur, is more difficult to obtain. Documents may no longer exist, witnesses may have moved to another state, and memory becomes less acute and accurate as time passes on. If the state you practice in does not have a statute of limitations in the nurse practice act for professional disciplinary actions against nurse licensees, nurses in the state need to contact their state legislators and lobby to get one incorporated in the nurse practice act.
Insofar as a board taking action against ones license as an RN and as a CRNA, the statutory requirements of obtaining a license as an advanced practice nurse requires that one first be licensed as an RN in a state. Therefore, one must adhere to the requirements of both roles. Indeed, the basis for violations of the act (e.g., gross negligence, failure to adhere to standards of practice) apply to both the RN and the advanced practice nurse, with additional violations that are applicable only to the APN (e.g., false advertising of ones services). In short, if one violates any of the grounds for discipline applicable to an RN and an APN, discipline can be imposed on both licenses.
Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.