Protecting Your License from the Nurse Police
Many nurses only think about the Board of Nursing when they are undergoing the process of obtaining their license or when they are renewing the license. However, the Board is involved with more than just the licensing of nurses.
While most nurses worry and plan around avoiding lawsuits, they give little thought to which actions or omissions might attract the Board’s attention. Even though lawsuits affect a nurse’s wallet, the bigger concern is the impact the Board can have on a nurse’s ability to practice nursing.
Your Nursing License
When most nurses think about relinquishing their nursing license, they assume that it will be due to a voluntary action like retirement, maybe a large inheritance or maybe even winning lottery millions!
But, few nurses expect to have to give up their ability to earn money as a nurse because the Board revokes their license or forces the nurse to surrender the license. Even if the Board chooses not to revoke a license, they can still impose restrictions on the nurse’s license that can adversely affect a nurse’s employment.
The Good Nurse
At this point, many nurses may be tempted to stop reading because “good” nurses do not end up in front of the Board, and they will never need the information contained in this article.
However, a large number of nurses facing the Board are “good” nurses that may have made an error, were not aware of the laws governing their practice, or perhaps they failed to document adequately.
Perhaps the nurse is innocent, but still had a complaint filed with the Board. The one thing that is consistent with nurses under investigation by the Board is that most NEVER expected their nursing practice to be under scrutiny by the Board. “Good” nurses can be investigated by the Board and “good” nurses can be disciplined by the Board and have their nursing practice restricted.
Understanding the BON
The first area to cover is what the Board of Nurses does and how can they restrict a nurse’s license. Each state’s legislature enacts laws, the Nurse Practice Act, governing nursing practice. The executive branch of the government enforces the practice act through the state’s regulatory agency, the Board of Nurses. The Board may be independent or part of a larger regulatory entity, such as a Professional Registration Board or Licensing Board.
The Board is comprised of nurses and other members such as public members or physicians. The Board members do not work for the Board full time, and they are not usually involved in the day-to-day activities of the Board. To perform the day-to-day work, the Board has paid staff members. The Board is vested with immense power to regulate nursing.
The Board has been charged by the state’s legislature with the regulation of nursing practice. Their regulation includes licensing, monitoring continued competency (continuing education, practice hours requirements), investigating complaints and the imposition of discipline for violations of the nurse practice act. The Board was not established to be the guardian and protector of nurses in their particular state. This is a surprise to many nurses who often misinterpret the Board as the “advocate” for nurses. The job of advocating for nurses is performed by professional organizations such as the state or national nursing association or specialty associations.
Related Resource: List of State Nurse Associations
Boards are entrusted to protect the public, not nurses. Think of the Board as the “nurse police”, and a better understanding of their role emerges. The Board is on the side of the public, which sometimes means to be on the side against the nurse.
Related Resource: List of Nursing Boards by State, includes links to licensure information and renewal.