Case shows board’s power to discipline nurses

By | 2021-05-07T15:26:09-04:00 July 14th, 2017|6 Comments

Readers have submitted many questions about nursing boards’ decisions concerning the discipline of nurses for violations of their state nurse practice act and/or their rules.

In the following case (Holmes v. Louisiana State Board of Nursing, 156 So. 3d 183 (2014)), an RN learned the hard way about her board’s decision-making authority.

Mary Ann Holmes obtained her license as an RN in Louisiana in 2010. She landed a job at a nearby medical center. Unfortunately, Holmes did not get along with her co-workers and many refused to work with her. She allegedly yelled at co-workers, was generally rude and behaved in an “insubordinate manner,” according to court documents. This behavior continued even though she was counseled about it.

Many patient complaints also were lodged against Holmes. Patients said they “felt insecure” about her care.

One day, Holmes allegedly yelled at a unit secretary, shook her, plopped her down in her chair and pushed the chair across the nurse’s station. (“Disruptive Behavior: License Revocation Upheld”, Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession, September 2014, 5) Holmes was terminated and her behavior reported to the Louisiana Board of Nursing after she allegedly became physically assaultive with the secretary. She was sent a notice of the allegations and was informed that if the allegations were true, her license could be disciplined, which could include a revocation of her license. An investigation was conducted.

Holmes retained an attorney and requested a formal hearing before the board concerning the allegations. After the evidence was presented by both sides, the board deliberated in closed session. The board accepted the proposed findings of fact and law submitted by the prosecuting attorney and ordered that Holmes’ license be revoked.

Holmes’ attorney filed a petition for judicial review of the board’s order in the district court. The district court affirmed the board’s decision. Holmes filed for an appeal of that decision.

Appeals court rules

The appeals court reviewed the applicable law and Holmes’ allegations of why the board order should not be affirmed. Her arguments, among others, included that her rights were violated under the Louisiana and federal constitutions; that the board accepted the findings and conclusions of the prosecuting attorney without deliberation; and that her due process rights and rights to a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal were violated, according to court documents.

The court held Holmes’ arguments were without merit. In doing so, it underscored the importance of the board’s obligations to protect the public and ensure nurses practice safely and competently. The court clearly stated the evidence presented supported the board’s conclusion that Holmes was “unfit or incompetent and failed to utilize appropriate judgment.”

Moreover, the court concluded, no constitutional or statutory provisions were violated, the board’s decision was not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion. It upheld the judgment of the district court.

A board of nursing has many options when it decides to discipline you. Other possibilities include placing the nurse on probation or suspending the license for a period of time. Revocation, of course, is the most serious alternative.

This case clearly illustrates a board of nursing’s power and authority to discipline you as a nurse licensee. As long as the board does so within its statutory authority and provides you with all the protections afforded to you, the decision will be upheld by the judicial system.

The case also speaks to the importance of retaining a nurse attorney or attorney to represent you in a professional disciplinary proceeding. The attorney here represented his client well as he attempted to legally challenge the decision of the board.

Given the court’s ruling to uphold the board’s decision, do you have any thoughts about the board’s order to revoke Holmes’ license?

Courses Related to ‘Ethics and behavior’

WEB296: Nurse Bullying: Stereotype or Reality? What Can We Do About It? (1 contact hr)
October is Bullying Prevention Month. Have you ever felt bullied in the workplace? How has the “nurses eat their young” idiom survived through nursing history? In the past few years, interesting research has emerged ranging from workplace aggression to incivility to nurse bullying. Knowledge is power. Become equipped to professionally challenge bullying in the workplace and empowered to demonstrate good examples of nursing leadership in our profession!

60097: Everyday Ethics for Nurses
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This course provides an overview of bioethics as it applies to healthcare and nursing in the U.S. It begins by describing the historical events and forces that brought the bioethics movement into being and explains the concepts, theories and principles that are its underpinnings. It also shows how ethics functions within nursing, as well as on a hospitalwide, interdisciplinary ethics committee.

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, 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 and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 40 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. 


  1. Avatar
    Mike Maloney August 2, 2017 at 3:06 am - Reply

    I was looking for your phone number and stumbled across this. This is OUTSTANDING! I am going to tell my sister to check this out.This is top drawer stuff!

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    Cccollin November 22, 2017 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    I am currently getting ready to either sign a consent agreement or go to hearing with BON of Ohio… I just recently started a job in PA… my question is after the discipline is decided do I need to inform the PA BON of the action ?? And what can I expect

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    Kay January 2, 2019 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I disagree with the power given State Board of Nursing. In this article there’s no mention of inferior work in other areas. This individual might have been restricted to work environment that had no public contact. The nursing field offers work in computer documentation involving little or no contact with others, as one example.
    Too little information to make more than an initial response. However, by no means to earn an income this individual’s unemployment will result in taxpayer dollars for support. Not a good decision for any of us.

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    mandee January 5, 2021 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Giving all of that power to those who are on the BRN ! When you look at the members , rare to find anyone who’s touched a patient in decades if every. Reason for being appointed Rep or Dem, what ever the Gov is , generally associated with a hospital , they are there to protect . And are just down right incompetent to judge others , especially clinical skills , and common sense.

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    Thomas V Kimble March 28, 2022 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    I was disciplined for Disruptive behavior as a RN in Arizona, it started with a false allegation that I shook a patient. This was first reviewed by Arizona’s unemployment law judge, I was found innocent, the patient denied it, no bruising found, I never shook a patient and on top of that, the nurse that lied supposedly allowed me to shake an ICU patient for 20-40 seconds without saying a word to me. But of course to completely cover everything in my case, it would take 20 pages! But what upsets me the most is how they kept delaying my hearing for over 4 years and that they put on my licensure “Under Investigation” so that I was unemployable!

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    Thomas V Kimble March 28, 2022 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I was recently wanting to work in my original occupation as a Pharmacy Technician, as I was schooled in the US Navy and worked 8.5 years in the Navy and 11 years at Sharp Memorial Hospital. I found since my nursing license was wrongfully revoked, that it also stops me from working as a pharmacy technician or anything medical for that matter!

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