Can a Nurse Work While Under Investigation with the Arizona Nursing Board?
Yes, a licensed nurse in Arizona can continue to work while under investigation by the Arizona Board of Nursing.
If an employer were to verify an Arizona nurse on NURSYS (the national database verifying nurse licensure), the license would show that the nurse is currently under investigation. The only time a nurse’s license would indicate an investigation would be if the Arizona Nursing Board formally disciplined the nurse.
What is NURSYS?
NURSYS is the only national database verifying nurse licensure, discipline, and practice privileges for RNs and LPN/VNs licensed in participating boards of nursing, including all states in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). Under current laws, the Board cannot remove past discipline from NURSYS.
In 2018, the Board moved license verification from the Board’s website to NURSYS. Previous Board policy removed all disciplinary actions from a nurse’s record after five years.
Nurse Disciplinary Actions
Examples of formal discipline from the Board include:
- Voluntary Surrender
- Decree Of Censure
- Civil Penalty
Investigation and Complaint into Practice Concerns
The Arizona Board of Nursing thoroughly investigates nearly every complaint filed with them. Generally, if the allegations contained in a complaint, if proven true, would violate the Arizona Nurse Practice Act, the Board would investigate.
There are two scenarios where the Board does not investigate a complaint:
- The Board lacks jurisdiction over the target of the complaint.
- The allegation contained in the complaint would not be a violation of the Nurse Practice Act.
Arizona Board of Nursing Complaint
After receiving a complaint or self-report, a nurse gets an Investigative Questionnaire and notice from the Board requesting additional information and a response to allegations found in the complaint. From here, the AZBON assigns an investigator to the complaint, and they begin to collect evidence.
The documents and evidence collected include the following:
- Patient medical records
- Employment files from the nurses’ employer and business
- Criminal records
- Interviews of people associated with the Board Complaint or nursing program. (These interviewees can include the patient, nursing director, colleagues, etc.)
When a nurse receives a Board of Nursing Investigation Notice, it’s essential to understand the process and how an attorney can help. When the Board of Nursing receives a complaint against a nurse, they will investigate the problem. It allows them to fully determine whether or not they need to discipline the practicing nurse.
Depending on the results of the investigation, the Board can suspend, limit or revoke the nurse’s license or certificate.
How Long Does an Investigation Last?
A current investigation with the Arizona Board of Nursing is taking (on average) around 18 months from beginning to end. However, the speed with which the Board completes an investigation depends upon the severity of the case. When assigned to an investigator, they give each case a priority level.
They generally complete higher-priority level cases faster than lower-priority cases. Some cases are so severe that the Board can attempt to suspend a nurse’s license.
Some examples of low-priority cases would include:
- Low-level criminal charges
- Patient complaints
- Documentation errors
Consultation at Chelle Law
Suppose you’re interested in learning more about our Arizona Nursing Board Complaint services and how to protect your rights. Set up a consultation with Chelle Law and our Arizona Nursing Attorney. Reach out to us today.
Nurse Licensure Complaints
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 AZ Nursing Board Meeting, the Board will vote to determine the outcome of each investigation.
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 of Nursing may dismiss a case if they determine there wasn’t a violation of the AZ Nurse Practice Act.
- LETTER OF CONCERN: A letter from the Board expressing concern the nurse’s conduct wasn’t ideal. However, the behavior doesn’t necessarily violate the Nurse Practice Act.
- ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTY: The Board may impose an administrative penalty to nurses of no more than $1,000.
- 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 ends, the nurse must 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: They offer the nurse 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.
- CIVIL PENALTY: Similar to a Decree of Censure, the nurse can be fined (up to $1000 per violation). The Civil Penalty is listed.
Arizona Nursing License Probation
The Board offers probation for nurses’ licenses in AZ through a Consent Agreement. The Consent Agreement requires the nurse to do certain things (drug testing, work supervision, counseling, continuing education).
Alternatively, refrain from doing things (unsupervised nursing like home health, working under the Nursing Licensure Compact, using alcohol, etc.).
Nurse License Probation can affect the following:
Nurses who hold a license or certification in Arizona can face license actions by the AZ Board of Nursing for any investigatory matters. If the AZBN determines formal licensing 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 (“NPA”) 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.
Arizona Nursing Board Investigation Notice
When a nurse receives a Board of Nursing Investigation Notice, it’s crucial for them to understand the process and how an attorney can help. When the Board of Nursing receives a complaint against a nurse, they will investigate the problem. It allows them to fully determine whether or not they need to discipline the practicing nurse.
Depending on the results of the investigation, the Board can suspend, limit or revoke the nurse’s license or certificate.
Formal Written Notice
After receiving a complaint, the Board of Nursing will send a formal written notice to notify the nurse. This notice lets them know their case is under investigation. The notice contains facts gathered by the investigator and the rules or statutes that the nurse possibly violated.
The Board wants the nurse to explain why the Board shouldn’t take disciplinary action. After receiving their notice, the nurse should request a hearing within 30 days.
Any time a nurse receives a complaint and a written notice of such, they should always ask for a hearing. At the hearing, the nurse and attorney can give their side of the story and avoid or minimize disciplinary action.
Investigations can take up to seven months or more. This timeline depends on how severe the allegations are. They can complete cases involving high risk or harm to a patient in less than a month.
Don’t Take the Complaint and Investigation Too Lightly
Sometimes a nurse may feel the complaint isn’t a big deal. However, whether true or not, a nurse’s reputation and entire career can be on the line. How a nurse responds to a board of nursing investigation notice can critically affect the case and its outcome.
If you’re a nurse with a written notice of investigation, you may not know how to respond. Understanding why failing to respond may have dire consequences can be critical to the case’s outcome. In the notice, you’ll see a deadline to reply to the allegations in the complaint. If you don’t know how to respond effectively, obtaining an attorney’s help composing your statement can be crucial. Suffice it to say if you ignore, delay or dismiss your response to the complaint. It might be a critical mistake.
Don’t Discuss Your Case with Anyone but an Attorney
After receiving a notice of a complaint, you may feel like venting to friends or co-workers. It is a bad idea. To avoid damaging your case or worsening things, you must keep matters to yourself. Remember, any of your co-workers or friends you speak with may be witnesses in your case.
Also, refer every question you receive to your attorney.
Can You Work Registry While on Probation with The Arizona Nursing Board?
No, unless the Board agrees to allow the nurse to work in the registry for a specific employer. Or if the nurse is granted an amendment after signing a Consent Agreement. All licensed nurses on probation via a Consent Agreement with the Arizona Board of Nursing have practice-related requirements.
The standard Consent Agreement contains the following terms:
- The nurse may not work for a nurse’s registry, home health, traveling nurse agency, any other temporary employment agency, float pool, or position where they cannot maintain supervision requirements.
Reportable Nurse Conduct
Below is a list of conduct that one can report:
- Information that a nurse or certificate holder may be mentally or physically unable to practice nursing or perform nursing-related duties safely
- Conduct involving practicing beyond the scope of practice of the license or certificate. Examples include knowingly giving a medication not authorized by a treating provider, obtaining laboratory or other tests not authorized by a treating provider, unauthorized adjusting of dosage
- Conduct that leads to the dismissal for unsafe nursing practice or conduct or other unprofessional conduct
- Conduct that appears to be a contributing factor to high risk/harm to a patient and requires medical intervention
- Behavior that appears to be a contributing factor to the death of a patient
- Conduct involving the misuse of alcohol or other chemical substances to the extent that nursing practice may be impaired or may be detrimentally impacted
- Actual or suspected drug diversion
- A pattern of failure to account for medications; failing to account for wastage of control drugs
- Falsification of medical or treatment records
- A pattern of inappropriate judgment or nursing skill
- Failing to assess or intervene on behalf of the patient(s)
- Conduct involving sexual contact with a patient, patient family member, or other dual relationships
- Conduct involving physical/verbal patient abuse
- Conduct involving misappropriation, theft, or exploitation of a patient
- Practicing nursing without a valid nursing license
- Violation of a disciplinary sanction imposed on the nurse’s license by the Board
- Conduct that deceives, defrauds, or harms the public
Consultation with Chelle Law
If you’re interested in learning more about our Arizona Nursing Board Complaint services and how to protect your rights. Set up a consultation with Chelle Law and our Arizona Nursing Attorney. Reach out to us today.