By Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD
When we go to get our driver’s license, we are tested on the rules of the road. When we go to nursing school, we are taught how to be a nurse and tested on how to be a nurse, not the rules we have to follow as a nurse. Here are some rules that will help you protect your most valuable asset, your license.
1. KEEP THE BOARD APPRISED OF YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS
It is your responsibility to keep the Board apprised of your current address. I suggest you keep a list of all places that you must notify if you move and add the Board to that list.
Anyone can file a complaint against you. When a complaint is filed, the Board investigates the merits of the complaint and usually sends you a copy and asks you to respond. If the Board does not have your current address, and they send you a letter, they may take action without your input. If the mail does not reach you, the Board will come to their own conclusion and could even file an emergency suspension of your license if they feel you are a clear and immediate danger to the public.
If the Board schedules a hearing and you fail to show up because you didn’t receive the notice, the Board will issue a notice of default and take whatever action they deem necessary.
2. DON’T HAVE SEX WITH A PATIENT
This is a clear violation of the Nurse Practice Act. Nurses must have clear professional boundaries and this even means don’t date a patient. Most of you are probably saying “I would never do that.” But believe it or not, it happens.
3. USING ALCOHOL OR OTHER CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES
What is the first thing your doctor prescribes to you when you say you work night shift and can’t sleep? He gives you a prescription for Ambien. What does a doctor prescribe when you have pain that is not relieved by Motrin, you got it, Vicodin. If you use these controlled substances for a prolonged period, the Board may consider you impaired. I know you are probably saying well the doctor ordered it. It does not matter. The Board may think you are impaired.
Approximately 10% of nurses have a substance abuse problem. Some nurses become addicted taking a controlled substance after an injury or surgery. This can happen to you. If you are taking controlled substances regularly for more than 3 months, get help. Don’t ignore it.
4. FRAUD OR DISHONESTY
It is no wonder why nurses are voted the most trusted profession. However, due to our patient population and the way health care is practiced, it is easy to either document things you have not done or not document things you did do. Honesty is the best policy in documentation, license renewal, and job applications. If you were terminated from a job, you must disclose that on your license renewal application. You must be honest in answering all the questions. It is better to be honest because it shows your moral character and ethics.
5. PRACTICE WITHIN THE SCOPE OF YOUR LICENSE
It is very important to practice within the scope of your license. Some nurses get comfortable in their practice and take short cuts. I have heard of emergency room nurses starting IVs, ordering labs and x-rays when the physician is busy for a patient that comes in for abdominal pain. Other nurses give medication pursuant to a verbal order or call in prescriptions and rely on the physician to document the order. If there is no order, you are practicing medicine without a license. You may not lose your license with these examples, but you don’t want to find out.
Honesty and documentation are the keys. Don’t have a relationship with a patient! Don’t take drugs! And keep the Board apprised of your address! If you do these things, you will protect your most valuable asset: your license.
About Lorie Brown
Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD is a registered nurse, attorney, and the author of; Law and Order for Nurses: The Easy Way to Protect Your License and Your Livelihood. She is the founder and CEO of Empowered Nurses (www.empowerednurses.org), an organization dedicated to educating nurses about how to protect themselves from malpractice and license discipline as well as a practicing Nurse Attorney at Brown Law Office in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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