I have been an LPN for 30 years. In March, I was terminated from a physicians office owned by a hospital for accepting gifts from a couple who had been patients for 10 years.
Frequently, the couple brought baked goods or snacks to office for the staff then began bringing me small pieces of costume jewelry and stuffed animals. They gave me monetary gifts on special occasions the next year.
The couples granddaughter reported me to my employer. I lost my job of 13 years and the office paid the money back. My employer notified the nursing board. After an investigation, I have to pay a $750 civil penalty and take two courses on ethics and legalities.
My employment options are limited as I am older, have severe rheumatoid arthritis, with obvious physical deformities from the RA.
I am working part-time and have applied for disability. I do not have a home computer to take courses. Is it worth trying to get a lawyer to represent me or should I just take the offer? Do I try to plead my case to the board alone? My response to the board is time sensitive. Would they give me an extension?
Dear Nancy replies:
There is no question that you need representation before the board in this matter. Unfortunately, very few nurse licensees can represent themselves in such proceedings because they have no training in the law and specifically in the law of professional discipline by a state agency.
Not only are the procedural issues complex but the substantive issues (e.g., circumstances under which you accepted the gifts, what the policy at the facility was, what your nurse practice act and/or rules require in such a situation) are difficult to deal with as well.
Although it is unclear what you mean by the payment of a civil penalty, it is a concern that this might not be a fine originating from the board’s authority to fine you but rather through another of your state’s civil laws.
As soon as possible, contact a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who works with nurse licensees before the board of nursing. You may be able to locate such an attorney through your local or national LPN association or through The American Association of Nurse Attorney’s (www.taana.org). Click on the “Need a Lawyer?” link and follow the instructions to find a nurse attorney in your state/area.
Another option would be to ask for a recommendation from any of your LPN colleagues who have utilized an attorney in board proceedings.