Arizona Nursing License Suspension
Nurses contact our office and frequently ask our attorneys if state law allows the Arizona State Board of Nursing to suspend a nurse’s license.
The short answer is yes.
The Board can issue an Arizona Nursing License Suspension based upon ARS 41-1092.11.
That statute states nurses can be suspended (and ultimately have their license revoked):
“B. Revocation, suspension, annulment or withdrawal of any license is not lawful unless, before the action, the agency provides the licensee with notice and an opportunity for a hearing in accordance with this article. If the agency finds that public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action, and incorporates a finding to that effect in its order, the agency may order a summary suspension of a license pending proceedings for revocation or other action. These proceedings shall be promptly instituted and determined.”
Reasons for a Nursing License Suspension
So, in short, yes.
The Arizona Board of Nursing can suspend your license if it determines you are an immediate threat to the public’s health, safety, and welfare.
Some usual reasons for a nursing license suspension include the following:
- Diverting narcotics.
- Healthcare problems.
- Criminal issues (felony, misdemeanor).
- Past disciplinary issues.
- Substance abuse (alcohol, prescription medications, illegal drugs).
- Sexual misconduct.
- Mental health disorders necessitating immediate action.
AZ Nurse Complaint for an RN, LPN, or LNA
No, a nurse cannot work as a nurse if their license is suspended.
The Arizona State Board of Nursing (“Board”) protects the medical welfare of the people of Arizona. They do this by ensuring each professional who holds a license as a nurse in Arizona can practice safely. If the Board believes a nurse cannot practice safely, they can initiate a summary suspension.
A summary suspension can occur when the Board believes that public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action necessitating the immediate suspension of a nurse’s license.
Examples of actions that can lead to a summary suspension:
- Substance Abuse
- Sexual Misconduct
- Mental Health Concerns
- Refusal to Follow Board Order
When the board grants the summary suspension of a nurse’s license, the nurse must immediately cease providing care as a nurse. A hearing will then be scheduled (within 60 days) in front of an Administrative Law Judge at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings.
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- Will a Nurse Be Placed on the OIG List after a Voluntarily Surrender?
Filing an Appeal after a Nursing Board Meeting
The investigatory and appeal process for an Arizona Nursing Board Hearing works like this:
The AZBON receives a complaint or investigates the nurse’s conduct (like a UCNA, LNA, or CNA). Once the Board receives a complaint or self-report, they will initiate an investigation (like if a patient in Phoenix files information, putting a nurse certificate at risk).
The investigation aims to give the AZBON evidence to decide whether a nurse should face disciplinary action (for instance, due to reporting a misdemeanor charge or conviction).
If the nurse receives an unfavorable decision, it is at this point they can then file an appeal and request a hearing with the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearing. An Administrative Law Judge will oversee the appeal, and the nurse may need to attend a hearing.
However, sometimes the investigation is automatically sent to a hearing, or an informal settlement conference can be held.
Nursing Administrative Appeal and Hearing
Any professional nurse licensee may request a legal appeal of an Arizona State Board f Nursing disciplinary action to an administrative law judge with the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), located in Phoenix. In some instances, a case is sent automatically to OAH. The OAH conducts the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
The administrative process is not as formal as a trial but is similar. Each party presents evidence using documents or sworn testimony. Each party also gives an opening and closing argument, which should explain why the judge should rule one way or the other. A nurse’s lawyer can cross-examine witnesses and testify on his or their behalf.
After completing it, the ALJ reviews the transcripts and evidence and makes a recommendation. However, the Board decides to accept, reject or modify the ALJ’s decision. If an individual feels there has been a mistake, they can request a rehearing.
AZ Nurse Practice Disciplinary Actions
Nurses who hold a license or certification in Arizona can face disciplinary actions by the AZ Board of Nursing. If the Board determines formal disciplinary action is necessary, it will happen after the completion of an investigation.
It’s the job of the Board to review any complaint alleging a violation of the Arizona Nurse Practice Act and Arizona law. Thus, at an Arizona Nursing Board Meeting, the Board will vote to determine the outcome of each investigation.
Therefore, one may need a defense attorney. The Board can vote on a non-disciplinary outcome or vote to offer the nurse a formal discipline.
Disciplines Imposed by the Board
If the Board determines formal disciplinary action is necessary (for instance, failing to report a misdemeanor charge or conviction), it will happen after the completion of an investigation. It’s the job of the Board to review any allegation of a violation within the scope of the Arizona Nurse Practice Act.
Thus, at an Arizona Nursing Board Meeting, the Board will vote to determine the outcome of each investigation. Therefore, one may need a defense attorney.
The Board (they do not utilize a disciplinary committee) can vote on a non-disciplinary outcome (which is not generally public) or vote to offer the nurse formal discipline, such as:
- CASE DISMISSAL: The Board may dismiss a complaint if they determine the information indicates there was not a violation of the rules of the Arizona Nurse Practice Act. This outcome is not available to the public.
- LETTER OF CONCERN: A letter from the Bd expressing concern that the nurse’s conduct was not ideal. However, the behavior does not necessarily violate the Nurse Practice Act or Bd policy, and no further contact is needed. It will likely not affect future licensure or if the nurse wishes further their education in an advanced program. The license verification does not show this.
- ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTY: The AZ State Bd of Nursing may impose an administrative penalty of not more than one thousand dollars with verified complaints. They may impose the penalty for any of the following (this is not an all-inclusive list):
- Failing to timely renew a nursing license while continuing to practice nursing services.
- Failing to contact the Board in writing within thirty days after an address change.
Formal Discipline for Unprofessional Conduct
- REVOCATION: If the Board revokes a nurse’s license, the nurse will be unable to practice for a minimum of five years. After the five-year period has ended, the nurse will need to reapply for their license. Should the nurse reapply for their license, they’ll need to demonstrate that the grounds for revocation (substance abuse, mental health problems, criminal convictions, etc.) are no longer an issue.
- VOLUNTARY SURRENDER: The nurse voluntarily gives up their license. The benefit of a voluntary surrender is that the Board is usually willing to reduce the time until a nurse can reapply. Usually, this is between two to 3 years.
- SUSPENSION: Suspension stops the nurse from practicing until the Board of Nursing lifts the suspension.
- PROBATION: The nurse receives an Arizona Nursing Board Probation through a Consent Agreement. The nurse must do certain things (drug testing, work supervision, counseling, continuing education). Alternatively, the nurse must refrain from doing things (unsupervised nursing like home health, working under the Nursing Licensure Compact, using alcohol, etc.).
- DECREE OF CENSURE: A decree of censure is the lowest level of formal discipline. There are no probationary requirements, but they will list the Order on the website for five years.
- CIVIL PENALTY: Similar to a Decree of Censure, the nurse can be fined (up to $1000 per violation). The Civil Penalty is listed for five years as well.
Consultation with Chelle Law
A misdemeanor criminal charge would likely not reach the threshold needed for the Board to initiate a summary suspension (such as a misdemeanor DUI or Disorderly Conduct charge).
If you’re interested in learning more about Arizona Nursing Board Criminal History laws and how to protect your rights, set up a consultation with Chelle Law and our Arizona Nursing Attorney. Reach out to us today.