We are passionate about lobbying for change in Board's and in Administrative Law that fail to offer basic civil rights and due process to nurses who are accused of violating their state practice act. We believe that nursing boards operate with impunity. They deny the accused the protection of their civil rights, they assume guilt without first establishing guilt, they accept and consider as evidence hearsay and they fail to offer due process. The civil rights of an accused is guaranteed in civil and criminal law but is not afforded in Administrative Law. Nursing Boards all too often do not offer a pursuit of the truth and justice. The truth does not matter (but it really does.) Nursing Boards claim the right to such latitude because they claim responsibility for protecting the public. Boards of nursing in their failure to determine the truth as proven by evidence do fail to protect the public.
Nursing Boards fail in their mission to protect the public in that they discipline nurses who are not guilty or are overly harsh in their discipline. Nursing Boards report thousands of nurses a year to the National Practitioner Data Bank. It is impossible to believe that all of these nurses are guilty of some act that warranted their career being leveled. Yet nurses who are disciplined and hundreds more who have unadjudicated charges are reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Even if they are later found on the basis of law and fact, to be not guilty, their names are forever listed in the data bank. Employers search the data bank before hire and will not hire nurses who are listed.
Nurses all over the country are subject to cruel treatment as they await in limbo the outcome of unduly long investigations often lasting ten to twelve months, during which time the nurse is essentially left in the dark. Investigators are often without any nursing or medical training and yet they decide upon whether the standard of nursing care was met. Investigators without nursing or medical experience, training and education cannot possible accurately determine if the standard of care was breached, or understand the impact of mitigating circumstances. Nursing Board's employee non-nurses and criminal investigators as well as some nurses with distant clinical, bedside experience. These investigators not only do not have the education to determine if a nurse breached the standard, but neither can they properly interpret medical and such records as medication dispensing machine transaction logs. They are unable to apply real life experience and understand the big picture. Investigators will not speak to the nurse if she has an attorney yet Board investigators are notorious for being non-responsive to the nurse's attorney requests for information. Nurses are left to twist in the wind throughout the process, without a voice and most often without the ability to practice nursing and support themselves and their families.
Nurses are denied the ability to practice and earn an income. When going through the phases of a disciplinary actions, nurses are forced into financial hardship with such agonizing outcomes as loosing their homes and vehicles, loosing medical coverage for themselves and their families or loosing such as the ability to pay for their children's schooling, dental needs, medications or simply pay the bills. It is a time of great despair, loss, shame, fear and undue hardship. It is a process that destroys lives as nurses who are innocent or who made a non-injurious, first time error are treated not only as if they are guilty but also as if they are criminals. The process is unduly punitive and cloaked in secrecy.
Many a nurse has discovered they are being made to suffer such torment based on employer retaliation most often for speaking up regarding patient safety concerns. Employers are given immunity from being held to their actions and complicity in creating unsafe conditions in which things predictably went wrong or fell through the cracks. Employers claim peer review immunity as they scapegoat the nurse for being a victim of unsafe staffing levels, being assigned too heavy and too acute of assignments, or having inadequate resources or assistance in getting a patient's needs addressed. Boards of Nursing hear from accused nurses such mitigating circumstances all the time yet they fail to hold accountable to the Nurse Practice Act those Nurse Leaders who knew of and allowed such threats to patient safety. Employer's and claimed witness's provide solicited, accusatory statements to the Board that the nurse will never have the opportunity to review or rebut, because the employer has been granted immunity. And the Board will take those statements as fact as they are permitted to consider as evidence hearsay. This would never be permitted in criminal or civil cases, only in administrative law. Because of the Nursing Boards refusal to seek to uncover the root cause of breaches in the standard of care, mitigating circumstances, and complicity of Nurse Leaders they permit the continuation of unsafe conditions therefore failing to protect the public. They further fail to protect the public when they ignore exculpatory evidence in non-comprehensive investigations and in doing so permit the real wrong doer to continue to place patients at risk.