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How Being Disciplined by the State Board Can Impact Your Career

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Nurses often ask me how they can find employment after they’ve been disciplined by a state board of nursing. Nurses often say they’re unable to secure another nursing position after being  reprimanded. 

This has been a recurring topic in the questions and comments I receive on my blogs. It's a significant issue. The long-term consequences of professional licensure discipline are numerous, with the challenge of securing future employment being of utmost concern.

Actions that can land you in front of the board

Healthcare employers' legal advisers and insurance companies frequently prevent the hiring of disciplined healthcare professionals, such as nurses, because of the potential risk that a liability issue could arise during their employment. Employers who are not bound by this mandate may assess the hiring of a disciplined nurse on an individual basis. 

An obvious method to prevent the consequences of professional licensure discipline is to refrain from engaging in behavior that leads to disciplinary action by a board of nursing. But this is often easier said than done.

I did a quick (and unscientific) review of several state boards of nursing’s disciplinary actions to determine the most common conduct by nurses that resulted in disciplinary proceedings. 

The primary reason for board actions was unprofessional conduct, which can be due to issues such as substance use disorders, failure to provide necessary nursing care, violation of nurse-patient confidentiality, and crossing professional boundaries.

I examined disciplinary actions within a three-month period by three state boards of nursing for unprofessional conduct and found 18 instances.

Another cause for board actions was the failure to pay state income taxes or child support. This has become a more prevalent issue, likely due to the pandemic's impact on job loss, burnout leading to nurses resigning, and the rising cost of living in today's economy.

Regardless of the reason, if the board acts against your license, you could have a difficult time finding a job in the future. Therefore, it’s important that you have the best possible defense against allegations in any type of proceeding before a state board of nursing. 

Keep these key points in mind:

  • It’s crucial to seek legal representation from a nurse attorney or attorney before responding to the board of nursing in any manner.
  • It’s important to be truthful with your attorney about the allegations against you.
  • Provide any relevant documents to your attorney regarding the allegations.
  • Give your attorney a list of character references who can vouch for your professional and personal integrity.
  • With your attorney's guidance, consider filing for a reconsideration of the initial board decision. If unsuccessful, you may file a judicial review in the court system.

Prepare for the job hunt

Even if you follow these guidelines and your attorney's advice, you may still face disciplinary action. So, what can you do to find a new job after a board of nursing discipline?

Every case leading to disciplinary action is unique, so not all of my recommendations will be applicable to all nurses who have experienced professional disciplinary measures. Nonetheless, here are some suggestions to consider when pursuing future employment:

  • Seek employment in a healthcare area other than the setting or role in which you were disciplined (i.e, case management as opposed to a clinical position).
  • Be transparent about the disciplinary action in job interviews or written responses.
  • Highlight the lessons you learned from the experience, your adherence to any board requirements, and how it has influenced your nursing practice.
  • Offer to provide references from individuals you worked with before the disciplinary action.
  • Agree to any reasonable conditions that may be associated with a future position, such as refraining from charge or supervisory duties for a specific period of time.

Another important recommendation is to investigate whether your state allows for the expungement of the disciplinary action. If it does, pursue the expungement. The laws can vary by state. There may be an application process for expungement, and approval is not guaranteed. 

Furthermore, a state might have a required waiting period between the date of the disciplinary action and eligibility for expungement. Also, a state might only expunge a disciplinary action that was based on specific grounds for the initial action, such as failure to pay state taxes.

It's important to note that expungement doesn't guarantee the complete removal of the disciplinary action from all records. State expungement laws don't have the authority to erase such information from social media platforms, for instance.

The effects of a state board of nursing disciplinary action on future employment are likely to persist to some extent. But, with an attorney's help, you may be able to minimize the impact on your career.

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