What Can You Do if Your Nursing License is Suspended?

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN - 03/15/19

In the terrible event that your nursing license were to be suspended, one of the most important things you can do is continue to take and stay current with your continuing education requirements. Even if your state does not require nursing CEUs, it would be advisable to take some courses. In the event you are able to apply for reinstatement, you will need to show that you have taken responsibility to remain current with your license seriously. You will also need to show remorse for, and learning from, your experience. Strengthening your knowledge base as a nurse is one way to evidence this.

Be Proactive and Demonstrate Responsibility

Choose a topic for your continuing nursing education related to why your license was suspended. Was it for something such as for a DUI, a HIPAA violation, or a malpractice issue? Taking courses in related topics for nursing CE such as alcohol or substance abuse, how these substances affect your reaction time, HIPAA regulations, how to avoid malpractice issues, etc., will help support your case for seeking education to rehabilitate or gain a better understanding of your responsibilities as a nurse. Some of these may be required as built-in rehabilitation processes set by your board of nursing but taking additional courses can help to bolster the strength of your conviction to reinstate and continue your career.  

The suspension or even revocation of your license is nothing to make light of, and you need to quickly address it and find out what you need to do to get it reinstated. You will need to contact your state board of nursing. Be aware, the Board of Nursing is not going to side with you because they feel sorry for your situation including abusive relationships, addiction to pain or other medications, the financial stressors, or even the fact that you may be a well-known nurse in your community. This is serious business and you need to do everything possible to show you understand the ramifications and intend to become an even better prepared nurse.

Understand Your Nurse Practice Act

How each state deals with each of these issues will vary from state to state. You would also be well-served to seek legal advice from someone familiar with the Nurse Practice Act in your state. Even if your license is not in impending jeopardy, your employer may view the situation in a different light and you might need some legal help with that. When considering legal assistance, you might consider a legal nurse consultant who is a specially trained nurse; or perhaps a nurse who is also an attorney. One such nurse is Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD who has written an excellent resource, Law and Order for Nurses, The Easy Way to Protect Your License and Your Livelihood. This is an excellent resource for your nursing library. 

As nurses, the excuse “I didn’t know…,”can actually get you into more trouble because you are responsible to know, and to Do No Harm. Therefore, if it was something you didn’t know how to do, or what to expect from a treatment or medication, you SHOULD have known or educated yourself before you did it.  This should not be a surprise. It’s one of the most important lessons you should have learned in nursing school.

Be Open and Honest

One of the things I get asked a lot is if a person can become a nurse despite legal issues in their background which often include issues such as DUIs, substance abuse, or being involved in domestic violence issues. The fact is, there is no one specific answer. Each state board of nursing and even each nursing school will apply their own rules to the situation and you will most likely be given an opportunity to state your individual case, but it can vary from one state to another. The best advice I can give you is to NOT try to cover it up. Be straightforward and ask up front what impact it will have. Tell your story and how and why it impacts your desire to become the best nurse possible. If you lie and get caught, that will not bode well for you.

Most Honest and Ethical Professionals

Nurses have been voted the Most Honest and Ethical Professionalsby the Gallop Poll every year since 2000 except for 2001 when firefighters were selected #1.  In 2017, nurses ranked at 82%, meaning 8 out of 10 people polled judged nurses as the most honest and ethical professionals. This is because nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system and a charged with educating the public in preventing disease and complications. Nurses have one of the most important jobs and they take it seriously. They hold the lives of their patients in their hands, and yes, sometimes they save their patients from their physicians.

One of the most important ways nurses continue to serve and provide the highest quality patient care is to remain current with trends in health care including new medications, new treatments and new ideas and information about diseases and complications. Through continuing education for nurses, they are able to stay current and to learn new information to share with their patients and their families and caregivers.

Marijuana Legality is Not Clear Cut

An issue just coming to light is the legal use of marijuana either for medical purposes, or even recreational use in some states. One major fact that all nurses need to be aware of is that just because it has become legal for these uses, your state board of nursing may not have addressed the issue yet, and technically it’s still illegal. NursingCE.com offers a great course in Recognizing Impairment in the Workplace.Your employer may continue to require random drug testing and if marijuana shows up, you could face disciplinary action, or worse. This is especially true if you work for the VA or other federal employer. Marijuana remains illegal on a federal level.

Again, remember the nurse needs to know and is responsible to know. Not knowing isn’t an excuse! Ask and find out before it becomes an issue. The National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has a new publication the Guidelines for Medical Marijuana available on their website for more information.

Stay informed and up to date on trends in nursing and protect your license to practice at all times.