How long does discipline stay on a nurse’s record? Well, first, this is very state-dependent. Each state may have their own policy on how long the discipline will stay up. So, this is state-dependent, but this will be kind of a general discussion of discipline, where it’s reported, and then how long does it stay up. First, you need to define what discipline is. Every state is going to have unprofessional conduct. And even though a board has issued a decision against the nurse, it doesn’t always mean it’s formal disciplinary action. In most states, it could be called a letter of concern, an advisory letter. There’s low-level document that goes to the nurse that’s not considered formal discipline, and won’t be reported to the national databases, nurses, and then the national practitioner database as well.
There could also be non-disciplinary continuing education order. In that scenario, that’s not reported either. What we’re talking about today is if you’ve been given formal discipline, so either decree of censure, a civil penalty, letter of reprimand, probation suspension, revocation, voluntary surrender, all these things are considered formal discipline and all of them will be reported to the national databases. There are a few states left that host their own reporting. And in that scenario, that’s up to the board how long they want to keep the discipline up on their website. But the national data banks have some very set standards. Let’s just take nurses, for example. If a nurse is disciplined and receives disciplinary action, it’s then reported to that database.
And if anyone were to verify the license of that nurse, all the states their license would pop up, and then any discipline they’ve received would pop up as well. And it would state what happened the date of it. And then, many times, they’ll link the actual document so someone can just pull it up and look. Now, if your state has no mechanism for expunging or removing discipline, it will stay up there permanently. There’s no way of removing it. For instance, I live in Arizona and represent Arizona nurses before the board and we have no way of expunging a case, removing discipline. And so, right now, if any nurses reported to nurses or the national practitioner database, there is no way of removing that discipline. It’s there forever which is frustrating for a nurse. The only way that we could get that changed would be change in the law. Other blogs of interest include:
We’d have to lobby with state officials and try to get change to the law so that we can have cases expunged or removed after a period. But right now, we can’t. It’s very likely if you’ve been given formal discipline that it will stay on your record either permanently or for a fairly long period. It’s not fair. If you were disciplined 20 years ago, and this will just follow you around for the rest of your career, it’s just not fair. The reasons why it can come up are, one, if any employer verifies your license, it pops up, they’re going to see it. Two, those job applications will state, have you ever been formally disciplined by a licensing board? In that case, even if you’re in a state where it can be removed, you’ll likely have to answer affirmatively to that question because it did happen. But having the license verification available for anyone to see and pull up and read the facts of the situation something that happened a very long time ago, nurses had no problems for decade or two, it’s just tough to have to deal with that for the rest of your career.
People make mistakes. Just because a nurse is formally disciplined doesn’t mean they’re a bad nurse. Doesn’t mean there’s behavioral problem with them. People screw up in medicine all of the time. And most of the time, it’s not some kind of act that the nurse meant to do. It could just be an honest mistake that led to discipline, but it will still follow them around for the rest of their career. I wish I had better news. If you had been formally disciplined, it likely will stick around for a very long time. How to handle that with an employer? Well, if you have been formally disciplined and the employer is going to find out about it and obviously ask you about it, then you need to have a story to deal with it.
You need to say, this is where I was in my life at the time, this is what happened, and these are the things that I’ve done to make certain it doesn’t happen again. That’s what the employer wants to hear. They don’t want to hear a bunch of excuses. They don’t want a big, long, complicated story. They want to hear the nurse say I screwed up. I was disciplined for it. I learned from it. Here are the things I’ve learned and here’s why it’s not going to happen again. Now, maybe there are some situations where the nurse can just talk their way around. Well, this wasn’t my fault for these reasons, but I find, for the most part, the most effective way of dealing with it is just straightforward, I screwed up, I learned from it, and I won’t do it again.
That’s what the employer wants to know. Any employer wants to know that a nurse is coachable or as far as the board, the boards call it regulatable. They just want to see that you can recognize if there have been issues, that this is something that you’ve kind of grown from. It’s very hard for some nurses to kind of swallow their pride and admit that they screwed up. Well, I mean, this goes for any profession. I’m not singling out nurses here. It’s just hard for people who are professionals to admit an error or that they screwed up in some way, but it’s the best way of handling a situation like that. Especially if it’s remote, if something that happen decades ago. An employer, if they’re a good employer, they’re going to understand things happen, and they’re going to show compassion to a nurse who is just explaining the situation. And I guess establishing that they’ve grown from it.
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