Can nurse’s discipline be barrier to continuing nursing education?

By | 2020-06-22T14:47:14-04:00 November 27th, 2018|1 Comment

A reader who has been a nurse since 2007 wrote about her termination from a previous job due to a HIPAA violation.

The violation was reported to the state board of nursing. She was disciplined and required to pay a fine and take several classes. She successfully did both.

The nurse applied to an RN-to-BSN program but said she was not accepted because of her discipline by the state board of nursing. She wondered if she could continue her education and if all nursing education programs hesitate to accept RNs who have been disciplined.

She did not specify whether the RN-to-BSN program was in a private or public academic institution or if she had read the school student handbook and its admission policy. Both are important.

What happens at a private institution

If the nursing program was a private education program, the parameters of how it treats applicants is established by the program or the school and is reflected in its admission policy and other school publications.

These school publications can be seen by the law as forming an “express” or “implied” contract with the student, and if they’re not adhered to by the program or school, the rejected applicant can file a lawsuit alleging a breach of contract.

In addition, the private program must conform with any conditions prohibiting discrimination or bias when receiving funds from the state or federal government.

It also must comply with state and federal law prohibiting discrimination, including Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which applies to places of “public accommodation” (e.g., a nursing educational program) that are privately owned.

If, in contrast, the academic program was a public one, the program must comply with state and federal constitutional mandates, and cannot discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, gender or religion.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a person who has a disability and is otherwise qualified cannot be discriminated against either.

What happens at a public institution

Public academic programs also are required to conform with conditions prohibiting discrimination or bias when state and federal funds are granted to the program.

I could not find an online site that listed which RN-to-BSN nursing education programs would not admit a licensed RN to their programs because of a board of nursing discipline. More likely than not, the rejection this RN experienced is unique to the particular program to which she applied.

The RN also did not include any reason for not being accepted into the program other than the disciplinary action by her state board of nursing. Certainly, any discipline may have a collateral effect such as this one.

Although a HIPAA violation is not to be taken lightly and the board of nursing’s authority to discipline the RN was made within the parameters of the state’s nurse practice act and rules, I wonder if there was another reason she was not accepted.

Did she have a disability? Was the decision based on her religious beliefs not being compatible with the program being based on a particular religion?

What was her grade point average? Was the decision not to admit her by the nursing program based on its established admission policy?

Without knowing more, we will never have the answers to these and other questions about the RN’s rejection. Even so, her experience provides guidance to you when you apply for acceptance into a nursing education program.

Some of those guidelines include:

  1. Be certain to obtain and read all of the nursing program and school’s published materials, including the student handbook and admission policy, whether through a hard copy or online.
  2. Be honest when asked about any state board of nursing disciplines or other adverse actions taken by any professional associations or employers in your application.
  3. Learn about what rights you have as a student when in a public or private nursing education program through research online, a CE course or consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney who practices education law and works with students or potential students.
  4. If applying to a private nursing education program, determine if the program has a “disclaimer” on any of its publications that denies the formation of a contract with students.
  5. Seek advice from a nurse attorney or an attorney who practices education law and represents applicants or students if you are not admitted to a program and feel the denial may be based on a discriminatory or other legally protected status.
  6. Frequently review your nurse practice act and rules and the board of nursing’s authority to discipline you as a licensed RN.
  7. Be certain to only apply to accredited nursing education programs and ones your state board of nursing approves.


Take these courses related to RN-to-BSN programs and HIPAA policies:

RN to BSN: Aligning Your Personality Characteristics with Your Career Goals
(1 contact hr)

With the recommendation that 80% of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020, many RN’s may be considering advancing their education. Have you considered what areas within nursing you might like to explore? Might certain personality characteristics help you enjoy some nursing specialties more than others? Is your dream to work in management, administration, education or research? Is your desire to avoid specific job duties such as management? Try to align your strengths and personality characteristics with a nursing role you might enjoy! Perhaps there is an area of nursing you haven’t considered as a possibility for you. As you decide to further your education, an analysis of research and individual personality characteristics may help you align your goals within nursing areas you might enjoy the most.

Go Get Your BSN: You Can Make It Happen!
 (1 contact hr)

Everything is changing: technology, healthcare, legislation, policies, … nursing. Advance your career forward by pursuing your next degree! Are you debating about whether you could get your BSN? With the 2020 goal of 80% of nurses holding a bachelor’s degree, where do we stand? How have we done? What does research say about the educational levels of nurses in regard to patient outcomes? What information do you need to consider helping you pursue your BSN and to become a part of the 80%? Become informed and motivated with this webinar!

HIPAA and Confidentiality
(1 contact hr)

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was implemented in 1996 and has been revised since then. HIPAA can refer to guidelines that protect your ability to maintain your health insurance as you move from job to job or place to place (“portability”). HIPAA can also refer to efforts to simplify the administration of health insurance. These efforts include the creation of national standards for diagnostic terms, insurance forms and provider identification. Perhaps the most common use of the term for healthcare professionals, however, involves protecting the confidentiality and privacy of healthcare information. In this module, you will learn about parts of HIPAA, especially as they concern nursing and other health professionals and the protection of healthcare information. Because you play a key role in the production of healthcare information, you play a key role in its protection.


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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her 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.

One Comment

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    Glenn Loving December 9, 2018 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    As a nurse who license has been disciplined I know first hand that many nursing programs would not admit me because of the nursing board actions they would not even entertain my application; also this may be off topic it was also the problem I had with trying to find employment which is really weird be cause part of the reason that my license where on probation was due to my disability so I have mad a decision to leave the nursing field

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