Petition to the Senate HELP Committee for Policy Change on Disciplinary Actions for Nurses During Covid-19 Pandemic and all Natural Disasters

Dear Senators,

We, the undersigned, are writing to urgently address the issue of disciplinary actions taken against nurses for decisions made during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2023). Additionally, we seek to address the broader issue of nurses who, unable to afford legal representation, signed consent agreements under duress, which adversely affected their professional careers.

Nurses faced extraordinary circumstances and made critical decisions to save lives often under extreme pressure and resource constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many now face investigations, probation, and even license revocation due to actions necessary to protect public health. These disciplinary measures not only penalize the dedicated professionals who stood on the frontlines but also threaten to exacerbate the ongoing nursing shortage and reduce morale among healthcare workers.

During the height of the pandemic, nurses frequently managed overwhelming patient loads, with ratios reaching as high as one nurse to 60 patients, often with only one or two CNAs available if they were fortunate. This extreme workload inevitably led to minor mistakes, which should be viewed within the context of the extraordinary pressures and conditions they were under.

Moreover, outside of pandemic-related situations, numerous nurses have been disciplined without adequate legal representation. These nurses often signed consent agreements, not fully understanding the long-term consequences, due to a lack of affordable legal resources. Some state board of nursing give 5 minutes for the nurse to defend themselves. Investigators put incorrect information or omit information all together and it creates a false narrative.This issue highlights a systemic problem within the nursing profession where access to justice and fair representation is not available without spending thousands of dollars.

We respectfully request the Senate HELP Committee to consider the following actions:

Policy Review and Amendment:

Evaluate and amend policies that led to the investigation and disciplining of nurses for COVID-19 related decisions made between 2020 and 2023. This includes introducing protective measures for healthcare workers who acted in good faith to manage unprecedented challenges.
Address the broader issue by implementing policies ensuring fair treatment of nurses who signed consent agreements without adequate legal representation. Implementation mandatory legal representations for all nurses under investigation provided free or reduced cost. Cover costs of Board issued mandatary Psychological Evaluations, Psychiatric Evaluations, Neuropsychological Evaluations and any ordered treatment or therapy that isn't related to addiction or drug related complaints. These evaluations are not covered by insurance as it is BON ordered and costs thousands of dollars. Nurses are unable to work until these requirements have been met making it financially impossible to complete the terms of the consent agreement and probation.

Reinstatement and Expungement:

Implement a process for the review and possible reinstatement of licenses for nurses whose actions were in response to pandemic conditions from 2020 to 2023. Expunge records of disciplinary actions related to COVID-19 from the professional histories of these nurses.
Establish a review board to reassess consent agreements signed by nurses who lacked legal representation and, where appropriate, expunge these records or amend the terms of the agreements.

Support and Resources:

Establish support systems and provide resources for nurses who have been adversely affected by these disciplinary actions, including legal assistance and mental health support.
Create funding opportunities for legal aid specific to nursing professionals to ensure they have access to fair representation.

Public Acknowledgment and Recognition:

Publicly recognize the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices made by nurses during the pandemic. This acknowledgment can help restore their professional standing and morale.
Highlight the need for fair treatment and support of nurses in all disciplinary matters, ensuring their rights and livelihoods are protected.Nurses have been hailed as heroes throughout the pandemic, and it is imperative that we treat them as such. Punishing them for decisions made in the line of duty during a global health crisis is unjust and counterproductive. Additionally, ensuring fair treatment and representation for all nurses is essential to maintaining a robust and effective healthcare workforce. We urge you to take immediate action to protect and support our nurses who have given so much to protect us all.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

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