A reader submitted a question about her RN license being suspended and wonders what she should do to get her license back.
A suspension of one’s professional nursing license is a serious discipline. Only a revocation is grimmer. Although any professional licensure discipline may present problems, a suspension raises unique complications.
The written order of suspension
The board’s written order of suspension is key to strategizing a course to obtain re-licensure. It will include requirements the individual must meet in order to apply for reinstatement of the license.
Although the reader did not include why her license was suspended, the more serious the reason the board took that action against her the more difficult it is to overcome. For example, if the license was suspended because of the commission of a crime for which she was convicted, the board will carefully evaluate the applicant’s character and fitness to be re-licensed.
Requirements in such an instance would most likely require written documentation of successful completion of probation and no other arrests or convictions of a crime.
Likewise, if the suspension occurred because of a clinical error during the provision of patient care, character and fitness to be licensed also will be evaluated, albeit with different factors to consider.
Those factors might include the successful completion, within a specified period of time, of a nursing education program-based course on an applicable patient care topic.
How soon can you be reinstated?
The order also will include when the individual can apply for reinstatement of the license. Although timeframes vary and would depend again on why the nurse was disciplined, the order could specify one or several months to one or several years.
Another obstacle facing a nurse with a suspension of the license is when the suspension took place and when he or she may apply for reinstatement. If the timeframe is a long one, the board may require the successful completion of a clinical update course to ensure that nursing skills are up to date and the applicant is competent to practice nursing.
In states that require continuing education for licensure or re-licensure, that requirement will need to be met before restoration of the license can occur and within the time limits for taking such courses.
This hurdle is not as difficult to overcome as some of the others since the courses that do not include a clinical component can be easily taken online or during an association meeting, as long as the course are ones accepted by the board.
When completion of all requirements of the order of suspension are met, the nurse can then petition the board for reinstatement of the license. Many boards have specific requirements that must be included in the petition, including details of meeting the parameters of the suspension order and attaching supporting documents, letters of recommendation and other information.
Often the board will want to meet with the petitioner so the board members can ask additional questions of the applicant. Likewise, the applicant may want to verbally provide additional information to the board members.
If reinstatement is granted, the board’s order will include any limitations on the nurse’s practice. For example, if the license was suspended because of a substance use disorder, despite successful treatment for that disorder, the board may restrict the nurse from practicing alone on a night shift for a period of years.
Or the board may reinstate the license but place the nurse on probation for a number of years to ensure it can monitor his or her practice during that time. Monitoring could include the submission of a letter to the board from the nurse at designated times detailing her progress during this period, letters from the employer rating the nurse’s employee conduct and his or her employment status, and letters from any treating healthcare providers.
Because the process is a long and involved one requiring a thorough understanding of the legal aspects of the procedure for reinstatement and the state nurse practice act and its rules retaining a nurse attorney or attorney to represent the nurse is essential.
You can read more about professional licensure discipline and boards of nursing.
Editor’s note: Nancy Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.
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