Forshier Law FAQs
We know how overwhelming it can be to find out that your licensing board is investigating complaints against you. Through our work with nurses and other licensed healthcare professionals, we’ve seen that the same questions come up time and time again. Get the answers to some of our clients’ most frequently asked questions, and when you’re ready for more personalized advice, contact Forshier Law.
My patient asked to meet me for coffee after he is discharged. Is that okay?
No. This would be considered a former client or patient. Both the Board of Behavioral Health & Therapy (BBHT) and Board of Social Work (BoSW) have laws/rules regarding intimate relationships with former patients/clients. What starts as a cup of coffee often results in an intimate relationship. The BBHT states that a licensee may not engage in any sexual behavior with a former patient for 2 years after the professional relationship has been terminated (even longer in certain circumstances). So, there remain exceptions even after 2 years. LADC Minn. Stat. 148F.165 Subd. 7;LPC/LPCC Minn. Administrative Rule 2150.7550 . The BoSW also states that a sexual relationship with a former client to whom certain services were provided is not acceptable under any circumstance for 2 years. Minn. Stat. 148E.220. This is an area where behavioral health professionals are frequently disciplined. Think through any decision to see a former client/patient outside of the clinical arena as it will likely be career-ending if you fail to abide by the law. Seek input from a trusted colleague or supervisor.
The Board of Nursing (BoN) does not have a statute (Law) defining a timeline for having an intimate relationship with a former patient. This is problematic as the disciplinary outcome of a relationship with a former patient depends on the members of the disciplinary panel and the report received, which will likely consist of hearsay. To be safe, contact your manager or supervisor to discuss the situation. While other states have a defined timeline for when a relationship becomes a disciplinary issue for a licensee, Minnesota does not. Things considered will be the vulnerability of the patient and your role in caring for the patient as the nurse, as well as how long it had been since you cared for the patient.
I am a nurse and my employer is requiring nurses to work overtime at my hospital. What if I feel I am too tired to safely provide care?
This is a tough one. No nurse wants to leave their patients or co-workers short staffed, yet you fear falling asleep or not being able to think or act competently due to your physical or mental state. Under the Nurse Practice Act, you have a duty to provide safe care. Minnesota Law under Minn. Stat. 181.275 only provides that a nurse will not be disciplined by an employer when the “nurse” determines that continuing to work consecutive hours may jeopardize patient safety. (The nurse and only the nurse determines whether continuing to work may jeopardize patient safety). However, a nurse cannot abandon a patient assignment if no one shows up to take over. Additionally, this only applies to nurses who work in hospitals and certain other designated work sites, not nursing homes, long term care. Additionally, a nurse may be kept on for overtime in the event of an emergency as defined in the statute.
In the event this happens, always follow the chain of command and report in writing how you are feeling to your supervisor. Ask the supervisor to sign what you have written in the event you must stay to work consecutive hours after your shift. Keep all documentation and emails related to the incident and continue to follow through until you have a safe resolution to the issue.
I’m a nurse and received a letter from my licensing board. What should I do next?
After you review the letter from your licensing board, we suggest contacting a nursing license lawyer right away. If the Minnesota Board of Nursing is investigating complaints against you or indicating that they believe you have been unethical in your nursing practice, you typically have a very limited timeframe to respond. During this time, you must move quickly to either respond to the allegations or request an extension of the deadline.
Why do you need to talk to a lawyer first? There is a lot at stake here. If you try to represent yourself against Board of Nursing complaints, you run the risk of sharing unnecessary or damning information, which can actually strengthen the case against you. The board will likely have their own attorney to represent and protect them during licensing issues, and you should be equally prepared.
Before you have an attorney, do not reach out to your employer about the complaints or discuss the letter with co-workers.
Do I have to respond to allegations made against me by the licensing board?
Yes, you absolutely must respond to allegations made by the licensing board. Furthermore, you must do so in a timely, truthful, and complete manner. You are required to cooperate fully with the Board of Nursing and give them all the information they need to make an informed decision. Ignoring the notices you receive or failing to respond to them does not help you. In fact, going this route may actually cause your license to be revoked or suspended indefinitely. This could put you in further danger in terms of your nursing career.
Some people, particularly new nurses who have not dealt with the Board of Nursing much before, believe that allegations are similar in nature to criminal allegations or accusations. In a criminal accusation, you do not have to answer anything unless you’re arrested and answering questions can actually make you look guilty. This is not the case when it comes to nursing board complaints. The Board of Nursing has full control over your license, and you do not have a legal right to keep your license; if you do not cooperate, even in the case of false allegations, you will likely lose your license.
I just received allegations from my licensing board, but the truth is I’m overworked. How should I respond?
Barb Forshier of Forshier Law understands your situation and the stress you’re likely under as an overworked nurse. This is one of the situations in which having a Woodbury nursing license lawyer is extremely helpful. Healthcare facilities are notorious for overworking nurses and then washing their hands of the situation when those same nurses come under fire for their conduct. As a nurse, Barb Forshier has seen how facilities can take advantage of nurses and fail to protect them when facility protocols land them in hot water. We believe strongly in helping overworked nurses protect their careers and licenses.
Before you speak to the licensing board about your current work conditions and how they have contributed to the allegations made against you, get in touch with a nurse defense lawyer. If there are complaints about one area of your practice, it’s likely that there are other issues with your work habits that have arisen because of your poor work conditions. Talking about these issues without the help of an attorney could further implicate you, lead to more serious discipline from the licensing board, and put your license at risk.
If your workplace is working nurses ragged, requiring them to work in unsafe conditions, or forcing them to take shortcuts to keep up with their workload, they must be held accountable for that. Your nursing lawyer can work to deflect the blame from you, prove that you are a good nurse in a bad situation, and draw attention to the work conditions at your place of employment.
I just received allegations from my licensing board and I feel like I don’t have enough time to respond. What should I do?
You do have the right to request an extension, and in many case, that is what we recommend. When you receive information of nursing allegations against you, you often have very little time to respond. If the accusations are accurate or are the result of a simple mixup, a party might be able to respond in time by either confessing that the accusations are true or providing evidence that the allegations were intended for another party.
Most situations are more nuanced than that, though. This is why you need a lawyer for nursing disciplinary actions. Your lawyer can help you request an extension, which should give you enough time to respond properly to the allegations. It is better to request an extension and make a full, complete response to the allegations than to rush a response simply to make the original deadline.
Remember, your license and the future of your nursing career is at stake here. If asking for some extra time could help you better protect your license, go the extra step to request an extension.
I’m a nurse charged with stealing narcotics, but I didn’t do anything wrong. What should I do?
Before you even finish reading the answer to this question, get in touch with a Minnesota nursing license defense attorney. Being accused of stealing narcotics is an extremely serious situation, one that can lead not only to the loss of your license but to criminal charges. If the complaints against you have reached the point of investigation, they likely have some evidence that ties you to the crime. You need an attorney fighting on your side as soon as possible.
In these situations, those who are innocent of the charges made against them are often in one of two situations. They may be the victim of poor training. A nurse who consistently overdoses on narcotics, even by a little bit, or incorrectly disposes of pain patches or other medications could be tied to losses in the facility’s inventory. A nurse may also simply be the unwitting victim who unintentionally brings inventory flaws to light. Nursing facilities are not perfect, and they can fall prey to inventory issues or mistakes. If one nurse is unlucky enough to use those meds often enough, the facility could accuse the nurse before investigating the inventory system.
Another cause: another nurse could actually be stealing narcotics and taking steps to put the blame on you. Signing meds out under your name or using your employee PIN to fill prescriptions, falsifying your signature on documentation, or otherwise tracing stolen meds back to you could absolve them of blame and leave you to take the fall. This is an extremely serious situation, and it’s one that you often requires rigorous investigation.
Being accused of stealing narcotics isn’t like having poor bedside manner or not understanding the unspoken rules of coworker communication and conduct. It is a severe accusation that could prevent you from even having a nursing career by the time the situation is over. Hire a Woodbury nursing defense attorney, provide all the evidence they ask for, and follow their instructions. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can protect yourself from these accusations by simply telling the truth. The truth is not always an absolute defense! If the Board of Nursing believes they have compelling evidence against you, it does not matter how passionately you plead your case and claim innocence. You need equally strong evidence to protect yourself and your license.
I’m a nurse accused of drug diversion by the Minnesota Board of Nursing. What should I do?
If you are being accused of drug diversion, please consider how serious this situation is. You should be on the phone with a Minnesota attorney for nurses immediately. Drug diversion is a crime, and whether the accusations are founded or unfounded, this could follow you your entire career. Furthermore, it could cause you to lose your license permanently or even be arrested on criminal charges. When you meet with your nursing license defense lawyer, give them all the information you have. They will help you plan your next steps and tell you whether or not you also need a criminal defense attorney.
But I did not divert. Will I lose my license?
No. This is a tough spot to be in for any nurse. Because now you have to prove to the Board a negative, that you did not divert, despite the serious allegations against you from your employer. If you are brought in with this allegation, offer a drug test. Often the employer will not take you up on your offer because after all, you could be selling the drugs. In this case, go in and get a toxicology screen done asap. Call your doctor and have them order it for you. A negative toxicology screen will be a part of proving your case at the Board.
What are the common causes of the allegation of diversion?
- Discrepancies in your controlled substance administration and the amount wasted.
- Failing to scan controlled substances. Be sure to alert management if you have scanner problems and keep a copy of the email.
- Failure to document a pain assessment prior to administering medications and after as mandated by policy.
- Administering controlled substances where the patient did not previously need them. Be sure to document a note to support your administration. Often we see, “You gave morphine and this patient had previously only required hydrocodone; or You were the only nurse that administered narcotics.”
- Frequently giving these medications for other staff. If you are the buddy nurse, sign in as such and put in a nursing note.
- Handing off something you have pulled from the medication administration system (“MAS”). It will show you pulled it out but did not administer it. You are responsible for anything you pull out. Best practice is ‘if you pull it you push it.’
- Always make sure you have a witness for your waste and always actually watch when you are the witness.
- Waste before administering if you know your dose. If you are titrating, be sure to waste in close proximity to the last administration. If there is no other nurse around, call the pharmacy or your supervisor to waste. Do not put it off. You may forget and that looks bad.
- Administer the medication as soon as possible after removing from the MAS. Many facilities have policies on the timeframe it must be given after administration.
- Do not put medications in your pockets.
- Do not pull out for more than 1 patient at a time.
- Know and follow your facility policies and procedures related to all controlled substances.
Should I admit to my employer that I diverted?
While it may seem like the right thing to do, it could pose a big problem later. Cases of diversion must be reported to local law enforcement and also the DEA. Nurses are often held criminally accountable for diversion. This will most likely be a felony with very serious consequences. You have the right to remain silent. This will be your best response until you speak with a criminal attorney. **Make sure your criminal attorney is aware that some felony convictions will impact your ability to work. This is a complex statute in addition to your license issue.
Should I tell my manager that I received allegations from the licensing board?
This can be tricky ground to navigate. You don’t want to mislead your employer, but you also don’t want to put your career at risk unnecessarily. Before you decide whether or not to discuss your allegations with your employer, talk your options over with your attorney. While it may ultimately be in your best interest to disclose the allegations to your employer, it may also be unnecessary if the allegations are ultimately unfounded. You do not have a legal obligation to tell your employer, so it’s best to discuss your unique situation with your lawyer and make a plan based on that information.
What would happen to my nursing license if the licensing board doesn’t believe me?
Everything depends on the specific details of your situation, how severe the allegations are, and what type of nurse you have been up until this point. Your license could be suspended for a set period of time or it could be revoked entirely. You could be required to pay a fine. In some circumstances, you may be required to complete additional education and training before you return to your job. You may be required to have supervision while working or while completely specific job duties. The Board of Nursing can also order you to limit the scope of your nursing practice. If your allegations involved substance abuse or mental health disorders, you may have to be subject to monitoring services provided by the Minnesota Health Professionals Services Program.
I was fired from my job, will I get a letter from the board?
Whether or not your termination is reported to the Board of Nursing depends on what caused your termination. If you were fired because of a serious ethical issue that violates your profession or practice issues that put patients at risk, it’s likely that your employer will report those issues to the Board of Nursing. Other issues, while enough to get you terminated, may not warrant a report to the Board of Nursing. For example, if you were fired for repeatedly getting in disputes with another nurse in your department, that would annoy management but may not be reflective of your ability as a nurse. The same is true if you simply did not work fast enough for the care setting or if you had a problem with habitual lateness, both of which can be fixed. If you were accused of stealing medications or falsifying documentation of patient care, those concerns likely will be reported to the Board.
The allegations against me are completely unfounded. Do I really need a lawyer to fight something that is untrue?
This is perhaps one of the most common questions nursing license defense attorneys get. Many people believe that the truth is a bulletproof defense against license revocation or other disciplinary action. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. Whether or not the case against you is true, the Board of Nursing can take away your license or otherwise take disciplinary action against you. Their goal is to protect the patients of Minnesota above all else, and if that means disciplining a nurse who may or may not have acted unethically, they will generally go the route that protects patients. They also have an interest in protecting themselves. If a nurse causes a patient’s death or serious injury after having allegations dropped, it is likely that future litigation efforts will look at the Board of Nursing’s role in the patient’s outcome. You do not want to leave any stone unturned when it comes to protecting your license, so even if you are completely innocent, consult an attorney.
How can an attorney help me defend my nursing license?
A lot depends on the allegations you’re facing and the amount of evidence against you. If you are facing allegations for something you did and that you admit to, your nursing license attorney may primarily engage in damage control. This involves limiting the amount of discipline you receive and trying to lay the groundwork for you to eventually regain full use of your license in the future. If the allegations you’re facing are untrue, your attorney will work to have them completely dismissed.
The wide range of actions an attorney takes to support you during this time highlights the need for an attorney with extensive experience in license defense. You may find that some lawyers work in this area of practice for an extra source of clients and income, while still focusing mainly on personal injury, criminal defense, or another area. However, if you choose an attorney that only works on license defense cases, you may find that they have a much greater understanding of how your licensing board works, how they decide to pursue allegations against you, and what it takes to have them dismissed. Your entire career is on the line, and you deserve an attorney who will work for it as hard as you do.
I believe the allegations against me are the result of a misunderstanding. Wouldn’t it be better to clear it up with the Board of Nursing directly instead of hiring a nursing license defense attorney?
If you have received a letter about allegations against you or you’ve heard about complaints against you through the grapevine, do not reach out to the Board of Nursing without a legal representative! This is a common mistake that many nurses make. In many cases, reaching out to the Board of Nursing directly can actually put you in a worse situation that you started with. It’s unlikely that they will hear your side and agree that the entire situation is a misunderstanding; it is more likely that you’ll bring up something they did not know about that makes you look guilty. It does not drag out the process to hire an attorney for nurses, nor does it weaken your case to turn to a legal professional. It is the single smartest thing you can do if you are invested in the future of your nursing career.
How do I choose an attorney to represent me before my Health Licensing Board?
- You want to be sure that the attorney has expertise in defending Licensees before Health Licensing Boards (“HLB”). Just like a surgeon, an attorney who practices specifically in this area will have the requisite knowledge of the process and potential outcomes. The best surgeon is one who has done a procedure many times. Ask how many times the attorney has done this type of representation.
- A nurse-attorney knows the world of healthcare. There is a unique perspective gained when your attorney has also done your work.
- How are the attorney’s reviews on sites such as AVVO? Do your research. This is your license, your ability to earn a living.
- You want an attorney who is responsive. This should be evident in their online reviews. When you have a question, you do not want to wait for an answer.
- Does the attorney have experience with the opposing side, the licensing board? This is similar to the first point; how many cases has the attorney had before the licensing board. The Boards are represented by the Attorney General’s office. An attorney who practices in this area will also know the attorneys from the AG’s office.
- Can the attorney answer your questions off the top of their head? An attorney who works in this area will likely be able to answer most questions with a high degree of certainty in short order.
- The attorney should have a clear fee structure. Many attorneys use a flat fee agreement. When a flat fee is used you know what the fee will be up front. You will not be charged for every email or phone call.
- Do you have malpractice liability insurance? Although Nurse Attorneys do not receive financial incentives for referrals, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) a large malpractice insurer, refers to attorneys who are members of The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA). Ask yourself why?
Does hiring an attorney make me look guilty?
Some of the clients that come to us do so late in the process, having already met with the Board of Nursing. By the time they come to us, they have realized that the Board is moving to take serious action against them, and they want to minimize the damage. What kept them from coming to us from the start?
In most cases, they were afraid that hiring a nursing license lawyer would make them look guilty. Maybe they are innocent of the allegations brought against them, or maybe they thought the evidence against them wasn’t strong enough to result in disciplinary action. Either way, they wanted to maintain the appearance of innocence by keeping lawyers out of it.
This is one of the most serious mistakes you can make when your nursing license is on the line. Hiring a nursing license lawyer does not make you look guilty. It simply shows that you value your license and that the legal aspects of the allegations against you are outside your scope of knowledge. If you had any other legal problem, you would turn to an attorney without worrying that they would make the situation worse. Approach your licensing issues with the same viewpoint. If you are guilty of the allegations against you, your attorney may be able to mitigate the damage and preserve your career. If you are innocent and the situation is a misunderstanding, your attorney is likely better trained to explain that to the Board of Nursing than you are. Either way, do not worry about looking guilty by bringing a lawyer into the equation—the Board of Nursing certainly has their own attorneys during these proceedings.
What are the most common reasons nurses get in trouble with the Board of Nursing?
The Board of Nursing investigates a wide range of allegations and complaints. Some of the most common reasons they take disciplinary action against nurses include:
- Criminal convictions that prevent the nurse from keeping their license or that may make them unfit to continue working in the healthcare field
- Unsafe practices that leave patients at risk of being neglected, actively harmed, or mistreated
- Substandard care that harms patients while exposing both the nurse and their employer to liability
- Boundary violations, including sexual or romantic contact with patients, accepting money or other gifts from patients, leaning on patients as a source of support, or blurring the lines between professional and personal connections
- Breaching confidentiality and otherwise violating a patient’s right to privacy
- Substance use or abuse, including diversion of medications, working while impaired, or falsifying medication documentation
The Board of Nursing has a wide scope of oversight, and they have the power to investigate essentially anything that would make a nurse a danger to the public or the patients they serve.
I have a substance abuse problem and I’m ready to face it head-on. Should I self-report to the Board of Nursing?
A commitment to substance abuse treatment is commendable, and it’s something that can better your own life and make you a more successful nurse. However, before you decide to report the issue to the Board of Nursing, consult a nursing license lawyer. Depending on what you reveal to the Board of Nursing, you may be asked to tell them about your issues in detail, enroll in the HPSP for treatment and monitoring, and possibly limit your scope of practice until your issues are well-managed. What you say and do during this time can put your license in danger, even if you go to the Board with good intentions. While the Board does support nurses with mental health or substance abuse issues through the HPSP, their primary responsibility is still to the public. If anything you tell them is alarming or raises a red flag, you could suddenly have far more trouble than you expected.
Meeting with a lawyer first still allows you to tackle your issue head-on and take responsibility for it. However, your attorney will help you prepare for conversations with the Board of Nursing, inform you about likely outcomes, and advocate you throughout the process. This puts you in a much better position to determine or influence the outcome of the situation.
I’ve been ordered to work in an unsafe environment. Am I still liable for anything that happens, even if the order came from my employer?
Even if your supervisor orders you to work in an unsafe environment, you are still liable for anything that happens on your watch. Consider, for example, being assigned a large patient caseload in a department you have never worked in alone. If you get overwhelmed and backed up, patients’ needs are likely to go unmet or unnoticed. If a patient gets hurt or dies, it will ultimately come back to you. While the facility may face penalties for unsafe hiring or employment practice, you could still have your license suspended or revoked.
If the Board of Nursing takes action against you for patient outcomes, they will look largely at your role in it. If you feel unsafe working in an environment, it is your responsibility to speak up about it and refuse to put yourself or patients in a dangerous position. This is difficult to do, especially if you work in an understaffed facility that is constantly running on fumes. However, remember that the facility will not go to bat for you if you come under fire. You must protect yourself and your career.
I vented about a problematic patient on social media and the Board of Nursing is taking action against me. Isn’t that a violation of my privacy?
The Board of Nursing takes action against direct complaints. If you complained about your workplace, coworkers, or a patient on social media, someone who viewed those posts sent them to the Board of Nursing to complain about them. This is not a violation of your privacy; this is the role that the Board of Nursing plays in protecting the image of the industry in the public’s eyes.
These accusations can lead to serious disciplinary action, particularly if you vented about patients. Patients’ privacy rights are paramount in healthcare facilities, and depending on what you posted, you may have violated those rights or acted unethically in your role as a nurse.
Whatever the circumstances are, you should not focus on the Board’s role in getting copies of your social media posts and what you believe to be an intrusion on your privacy. You should instead focus on contacting a lawyer to defend you against claims of privacy violation and unethical behavior.
Can I turn to the media or social media for support? I believe the Board of Nursing is unfairly targeting me.
Taking your issues with the Board of Nursing to the media or to your own social media accounts is akin to throwing gasoline on a bonfire. If you’re entangled in allegations, you are already on treacherous ground. Accusing the Board of Nursing of targeting you or treating you unfairly will only make the situation more difficult and more drawn-out. While you may get some support from people on social media, it’s just as likely that the tide will turn against you and you’ll end up having vocal opponents reach out to the Board directly to encourage more severe disciplinary action against you. Once something is released to the media or to social media, you no longer have any control over what happens. It could result in widespread support for you and dropping of all allegations, or it could spin out of control and go viral in the worst way possible. Do not take chances on something as important as your nursing career. Resist the urge to go public with your issues and contact an attorney instead.
We know how worried you must be right now as you think about the future of your career and how you can protect your license from the allegations you’re facing. This is not a time to panic! This is a time to take decisive action and do everything in your power to protect the career you have worked so hard to build. Don’t panic, but on the same note, don’t assume everything will work out in your favor. Hire a nursing license defense attorney, give them all of the information you have, and follow their advice. You work hard to take care of your patients, now let us work hard to help you.
What should I do if I receive a letter demanding a response and appearance before the Minnesota Board of Nursing?
Call Forshier Law, LLC immediately. Timing is critical as responses are usually due within ten days. Do not delay! This is a serious issue and may affect your ability to practice nursing, your livelihood.