In the latest installment of Arizona Nursing’s reality TV series, the AZBON decides to join the Army by employing new Special Ops maneuvers designed to “hide” information from its constituents. More specifically, in one of the latest board meetings it was decided to withhold the names of nurses who have their cases dismissed or who receive a “Letter of No Concern” and only publish the names and cases of nurses who are being formally disciplined with anything from a “Decree of Censure” on up to “Revocation.” Ah yes, the perfect camouflage to blend in with the Arizona desert landscaping, don’t you think? Lying in wait for the next nurse to come along……. Some of the citizens in our state who have been following my case and have followed the Board of Nursing’s activities a bit closer are irate that an agency that was set into place by the Arizona Legislature to protect the public and inform the public has made its own decision on what the public gets to read and know about and what “isn’t of their concern.” I can’t say I disagree. It is the public’s right to know who is who out there in the healthcare world, and its why people (aside from me) do actually read those minutes.
The following letter was sent to me from a healthcare consumer who recently wrote the AZBON asking for information:
1. The Board says it does not maintain “lists” — and yet it publicizes a regulatory journal quarterly that contains page after page of disciplinary actions and cases dismissed.
2. The Board advises that at the bottom of this letter : “as for the reasons the nurses were reported to the board, the substance of the complaints received by the board is confidential pursuant to ARS such and such”
Really. OK. If it was truly that way then why do they maintain live streaming video of all board meetings for anyone across the nation to link in to, and why have they “listed” nurse after nurse who has to go before the Board in its Board Meeting Minutes for the past ten years?
If that’s really the case—then why is that very information publicized on individual nurses licenses, keeping them from finding gainful employment, while other nurses don’t get their complaints published?
Again, at least to me, its just another example of the AZBON playing another round of “eenie meanie monnie moe.” The last time I checked, the Arizona Legislature didn’t include that within the “powers and duties of the Board of Nursing.” Ive come to the conclusion that they assumed I didn’t have the ability (brainpower, will, IQ status) to either read the Arizona Revised Statutes much less understand and apply it to the cases at hand.
It comes down to this: If you do it to one nurse, you do it to all nurses. It’s about justice and equality. If a nurse commits an offense and is disciplined for that offense===so should the next nurse be disciplined the same way for the same offense. If one nurse’s case is publicized to the world, all cases should be publicized to the world….
But…. I think we have seen that this is all about the “Good ol’ girls club” in Arizona and its about who you know, how submissive or fearful you are and how willing you are to lay down and render yourself silent whether or not you get to be a nurse in this state. That has been the greatest disappointment to me throughout this whole ordeal…the sacrifice of what we are supposed to stand for and who we are supposed to protect and the oath we made to put others before self. A nurse is a nurse, whether working at the Board of Nursing, or as a nurse at the bedside. We are all connected. We are all subject to being moved by the ripple effect……whether it be in a good or bad way. But we all have a responsibility to not just the people, but to eachother, and to holding eachother accountable.
That is what this is about. And what it will always be about. They did wrong by so many of us—nurses, and patients. And now its time to be held accountable in the eyes of the public, the tax payers, the patients, lawmakers, and peers. And you can bet I’m taking, and will take, every opportunity to do it.
Simply put, withholding the names and cases of any of the nurses who are reported to the Board appears downright shady. It makes the AZBON appear as if it has something to hide, or that they make personal and biased politically based decisions about what is in the public’s interest and what isn’t. As demonstrated in my previous blogs, the public has good cause to want to know more information about who the board is disciplining and who it isn’t. Members of the public (as well as state lawmakers) are right to begin questioning whether the agency is actually following and applying the state’s Nurse Practice Act. And so are nurses. Why? Because as the years go by, dealing with the Arizona Board of Nursing becomes more like engaging in a round of Russian roulette.
There is a reason why they have a high rate of staff turnover. Seriously, who wants to conscientiously get up every morning, look in the mirror, and know they are about to spend the day contributing to the undoing of hundreds of nurses all over the state who worked hard to go to school and earn a living? Who wants to spend every day trying to live with what has to be done to cover things up so the Board looks pretty and shiny to the state and to the NCSBN? I mean, we can’t have Joey Ridenour looking anything less than stellar, right? Her political reputation precedes her, after all, both politically in Arizona and within the higher echelons of the profession. Quite literally the “Godfather” of Nursing in this state, attorney after attorney agree that she is so well connected she’s “untouchable.” One staffer quoted to me that Executive Director Ridenour could “literally get away with murder, and avoid suspicion and questioning all together.” According to an attorney who works at the Board daily: “Some of my cases that I thought for sure would receive harsh discipline, because the offense warranted it, only received a slap on the hand, while others who had very minor offenses were given severe punishments.” So its of no surprise that the Arizona Board of Nursing has gotten away with some of the horrible outcomes it has in the past. Just who are they accountable to, anyway? I thought it was us. The people.
OVERVIEW OF ARIZONA’S PUBLIC RECORDS LAW
“Arizona law requires all officers and public bodies to maintain records reasonably necessary to provide an accurate accounting of their official activities and of any government funded activities. …
An officer is any person elected or appointed to hold office of a public body or any chief, administrative officer, head, director, superintendent or chairman of any public body. Public bodies include the state, counties, cities, towns, school districts, political subdivisions, or special taxing districts and any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee thereof.
Records are defined as books, papers, maps, photographs, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved by the agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of government. Examples of public records and other matters include calendars, reports, legal memoranda, policies and procedures, accident reports, training videos and materials, tape recordings of meetings where there are no written minutes, personnel records, case files, and data bases.
Every citizen in Arizona has the right to access public records upon request. Arizona Public Records Law specifically requires that public records and other matters in the custody of any officer shall be open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours. Public agencies are required to promptly furnish the requested information. Access to a public record is deemed denied if a custodian fails to promptly respond.
It is best to request public records from the agency that owns or created the record. It is also advised to keep the scope of your request as narrow and specific as possible. Doing so will save time and expense for all parties. “
Basically, if you are a nurse who gets summoned before “The Board” in Arizona, there really is no predicting what will happen— despite the process that’s explained to you or the rules set forth by the agency, the Nurse practice act, or the powers and duties administered to them by the Arizona Legislature. You’re going in blind, and there is no point in having ANY expectations. I can only surmise that the latest stealth maneuver of attempting to hide portions of their public proceedings is the equivalent of what soldiers have to do in theatre: Strategize. Do it under cover. Employ all your Special Ops personnel (assistant Attorney Generals, Attorney Greg Harris and Valerie Smith) to make sure its carried off looking clean and legal, and go back underground as soon as possible. The only problem with that is…….there’s this thing called Social Media, it’s not going away anytime soon, and the Boards of Nursing & NCSBN don’t have jurisdiction over the entire world wide web and everyone who uses it. They need to get over it. What’s more encouraging—they can’t stall progress. Our world is experiencing a technological boom—and no one can keep history from happening, or technology from advancing. No matter how many tantrums you throw. Life just happens anyway, with or without your approval, participation, or presence—-No one has the power to stop the world from changing, or nurses and healthcare consumers from catching on to the fact that the use of one’s knowledge and voice has the potential to move mountains.