Do I need a nursing Board lawyer to review my stipulated order of reprimand?

The answer to this question is “yes,” you need a nursing board lawyer, usually called a “licensure lawyer,” to review a proposed stipulated order of remand. If there is an exception to this answer, I am unaware of it.

First a bit of background. Reprimands exist on the low end of the range of professional sanctions that are available to any licensing Board, including the Oregon State Board of Nursing. Reprimands may be offered, for example, by the Board of Nursing as a quick resolution to a complaint involving a relatively small digression by the nurse, providing what may appear at first glance as an easy way out for both the Board of he Nursing and the nurse. It is precisely because reprimands exist on the low end of the range of sanctions, that reprimands are sometimes viewed as an easy settlement. It is a mistake, however, to treat reprimands so lightly.

Consider these three consequences of a reprimand:

  • Although a reprimand exists on the low end of the range of sanctions, a reprimand is nonetheless a form of professional sanction or discipline, and it is a public record. For most licensees, a reprimand will be included in your profile listed on your Board’s licensing verification page (e.g., the Board’s website). This is true of the Oregon State Board of Nursing, and also the Oregon Medical Board and the Oregon Board of Pharmacy.
  • Because a reprimand is a form of professional sanction or discipline, it is almost always necessary to report the reprimand to any other states in which you are also licensed, which will prompt another investigation – and maybe mirror-image discipline – by those states.
  • A reprimand also counts as disciplinary history against you, which means that if another complaint is filed with the Oregon State Board of Nursing, the nurse will have “disciplinary history” the next time, which is not desirable.

Hopefully, the above analysis is sufficient to establish the seriousness of a reprimand, and why it is a good idea to have any proposed settlement reviewed by an experienced nursing board lawyer before accepting a reprimand in order to settle a Board of Nursing complaint, used as an example above.

Two cases that make the point

I was retained by nurses earlier this year, shortly after they had received proposed reprimands from Oregon Board of Nursing, offered as a settlement to conclude the case. In both case, the reprimands were worded in a way that could be interpreted to include far worse conduct than the underlying facts warranted. This fact alone was reason to reject the reprimands. Additionally, there were extenuating circumstances in each case that caused me to recommend to each of the nurses they not accept any form of reprimand to settle their cases. Both nurses accepted my recommendations, which prompted me to explain my advice to the Board of Nursing and to request that the Board of Nursing issue letters of concern only. The Board of Nursing agreed, and recently closed both files without disciplining the nurses (a letter of concern is not discipline).

One last point

If legal advice from a nursing board lawyer is necessary before accepting a “lowly” reprimand, you will certainly want to consult a nursing board lawyer whenever you receive notice of any proposed disciplinary sanction from the Oregon Board of Nursing (the same is true for the Oregon Medical Board and the Oregon Board of Pharmacy).

Above and beyond a reprimand, the range of sanctions available to the Board of Nursing include having your license to practice nursing temporarily suspended, indefinitely suspended, or permanently suspended; or having your license to practice nursing revoked. Sanctions may further include monetary fines, continuing education, recurrent training, the imposition of a mentor and monitoring, and periods of probation. One or more sanctions, in combination, may be proposed by the Board of Nursing, as the Board sees fit.

In sum, if you are being investigated by the Oregon Board of Nursing, a nursing board lawyer should be involved from the start, and should certainly review any proposed settlements. Although I have written these comments using the Oregon Board of Nursing as an example, the same is true of investigations involving the Oregon Medical Board and the Oregon Board of Pharmacy; a lawyer should always be involved.