In nursing school, they never taught us about the specific laws that we are required to follow to keep our license safe as a nurse. They taught us about ethics. I vaguely recall the Nurse Practice Act from which the most important advice from that is “Don’t have sex with a patient,” which I would not have done any way.
After being an attorney for 23 years, I think I finally realize why the nursing laws are not taught in nursing school. The reason is that the nursing laws are written by lawyers and, even for me as an attorney now, they are difficult to understand. Also, the ways that the laws are written, they are constantly subjected to interpretation. For example, one of the nursing laws is “failure to keep abreast of current practice or theory” Who knows what that means?
But here are three easy mistakes that I have seen many nurses make that ends up getting them an appearance before the licensing Board. If you follow this trio of simple tips, it will help you to avoid complications in your career. These tips seem like common sense but they are so easily overlooked.
1. Keep the Board Apprised of Your Current Address
The first one is to keep the Nursing Board apprised of your current address. If the Board needs to get a hold of you, for whatever reason, they have to know where to reach you. If you keep a list of all your bills or all your contact information in one place, add the Nursing Board to that list. I have seen nurses whose licenses have been suspended simply because they forgot to tell the board of a new address. If charges are filed against your license, and the Board does not know how to reach you to tell you about the action and scheduled a hearing, obviously, you will not know to appear at the hearing to defend yourself. Your license most likely will be suspended. Keeping the Board informed of your current address is a very simple tip that can save you a lot of headache in the future.
Along that same line, be sure to renew your nursing license and have that on your calendar every time it is up for renewal. My State (Indiana) no longer sends out renewal reminders so, just like a driver’s license, it is imperative for us to remember when it is time to renew our nursing license. If we fail to renew our license, we are in violation for practicing nursing without a license and can also be charged criminally.
2. Be Truthful on Your License Renewal
The second tip: if the Board asks if you have been disciplined or terminated in your capacity as a registered nurse, be sure to inform them any and all discipline, including attendance. If it shows up in your employment file and the Board has not been informed, that can be considered a material misrepresentation in obtaining your nursing license.
In Indiana, we renew our licenses every two years. I suggest that you keep a list of any discipline during that period so that you can report it. Honesty is the best policy. The Board simply wants to know that you are safe to practice. You are better off in telling the truth rather than being called before the Board to answer an accusation of misrepresentation and fraud in obtaining your nursing license.
3. Be Truthful on Job Applications
The third tip is that if you get terminated from your nursing position, you need to disclose that on future job applications. Again, this goes to honesty. If you do not tell the truth, you are misrepresenting a fact on your job application. You do not have to tell on the application why you were terminated; just state that you will discuss it in an interview.
Any employer wants to know that a potential employee tells the truth. Providing false information on a job application also is grounds for a charge against your nursing license for fraud or misrepresentation.
You are your word! Being honest in your practice regarding the good, bad and ugly says a lot for your integrity. Employers want an honest nurse with integrity rather than one who conceals the truth.
Lorie A. Brown is a registered nurse as well as an attorney and the president of Brown Law Office, P.C., in Indianapolis, Indiana. She concentrates her practice on assisting health care providers before the various licensing boards. She is also the founder of EmpoweredNurses.org, an organization which empowers nurses to speak their mind, stand in their power and be a change agent to improve patient care. If you want to be an Empowered Nurse and join our movement, visit www.empowerednurses.org for your free report “Thrive in Your Nursing Practice” and you can take our quiz “Are you an Empowered Nurse?” You will be surprised at the results!