Nursing Licenses Disciplinary Process
The disciplinary process in Texas usually begins with either a letter of self-report from the nurse or a complaint from a hospital, patient, employer, co-worker, or angry spouse. Impairment due to drugs and alcohol, the filing of criminal charges, or a criminal conviction can also trigger an investigation into nurse misconduct and alleged violations of the Nursing Practice Act.
If you are facing the possible revocation of your nursing license, the Leichter Law Firm may be able to help you. We have a history of fighting on behalf of our clients, and we may have the experience that you need. To discuss your case with our Texas nursing license defense attorneys, please contact us today by calling 512-495-9995.
The Nursing License Defense Process
Once an investigation is initiated, the nurse is contacted by a letter of complaint and inquiry sent by a Texas Board of Nursing investigator to the nurse’s registered address. At this time the nurse is also sent a data sheet / questionnaire and is asked to explain and respond in detail concerning the alleged professional misconduct and purported violation(s) of the Nursing Practice Act. The Texas Board of Nursing’s investigators then gather evidence regarding the allegations by interviewing witnesses and obtaining records and other documentation about the relevant issues. The Board has up to one year to complete an investigation unless there is good cause for the investigation to continue.
Once the investigation is complete the material and evidence gathered is sent to the Executive Director, the Director of Enforcement, and the Board’s lawyers / legal division where it is reviewed and a recommendation is proposed. If it is determined that probable cause exists to believe the nurse has violated the Nursing Practice Act, formal charges may be filed. At that point the nurse has the opportunity to schedule an Informal Conference to resolve the matter informally. However, in cases where the alleged misconduct is severe or where the nurse poses a continuing threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the public, the Board may file formal charges against the nurse immediately through the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
During the Informal Conference the Board’s staff attorney begins with an opening statement and then presents evidence and the theory of the case to the Board’s panel members. The nurse or the nurse’s lawyer is given a chance to present his/her defense and/or mitigation evidence in reply. The nurse is then questioned by the panel members at length. Each side is afforded the opportunity to present a closing argument. After a private review and consideration of the evidence, the panel members decide if the nurse has committed professional misconduct and they make recommendations for a sanction. Within one month of the hearing the nurse is informed of the panel’s decision and a formal offer is presented in writing. The nurse has twenty days to accept or reject the offer. If the offer is rejected the Board will generally file formal charges against the nurse at SOAH.
The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) is where hotly contested cases and matters of law are often decided in Texas. The proceeding occurs in front of an Administrative Law Judge and is similar in form to a civil trial. This is a complicated legal proceeding in which a nurse will find him or herself lost without the assistance of an attorney. Witnesses are called, evidence is submitted, and at the conclusion the Administrative Law Judge renders a decision which includes findings of fact and conclusions of law. The matter is then remanded to the Board for a disciplinary penalty or licensure action consistent with the SOAH judge’s findings.
In the event that either the Board or the nurse disagrees with the findings, or the Board does not issue a disciplinary sanction consistent with the Judge’s opinion, the matter can be appealed to District Court and beyond if necessary. Please see the section on appeals for a further explanation of the Appellate Process.
An Appeal of the Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law issued by the Administrative Law Judge at SOAH can be filed with the District Court. Furthermore, actions can be taken in District Court against the Board of Nurse Examiners if their punitive measures are not consistent with the findings of the Administrative Law Judge. Usually such proceedings involve a request for injunctive relief in which the practitioner asks the District Court to issue a Declaratory Order restraining the Board from acting in a specific manner.
Appeals can also be made by either the Board of Nurse Examiners or a nurse to the Texas Court of Appeals and eventually to the Texas Supreme Court. These appeals are usually perfected only when a matter of grave importance is decided upon by the District Court against the appealing party. Although a timely and often costly affair, the rights and remedies at stake can be of such importance to both parties that appealing is the only option. Litigation at this level is highly complicated and is best handled by a lawyer. Because the practitioner has been disciplined, it is unlikely that the appeal committees will listen to the pleas of the nurse with an open mind. Your rights are best asserted through competent and experienced legal counsel.
If you are a Texas nurse in danger of losing your license, you are understandably concerned. The Texas nurse license defense lawyers of the Leichter Law Office understand the concerns you are facing, and we may be able to work with you to minimize the negative consequences of a board hearing. To discuss your case with us and learn more about whether we can help you beat the charges you are facing, please contact us today by calling 512-495-9995.