There has been an increased frequency of nurses who have contacted me, asking about whether or not they are allowed to see the evidence against them in their cases before going in to meet with the AZBON staff. A local attorney here seems to have been botching cases right and left by not ensuring that these nurses are given a proper discovery opportunity so that both client and attorney are aware of the charges brought against a nurse. So, let me set the record straight: YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER, GO INTO A MEETING WITH ANY BOARD OF NURSING STAFF WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT THE BOARD HAS AGAINST YOU. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO KNOWING WHAT EVIDENCE THE BOARD IS GOING TO USE TO DECIPHER CHARGES AGAINST YOU. One could deduct that my previous attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. I subsequently filed a complaint with the State Bar for that. This is called the DISCOVERY PROCESS. I didn’t know about it until I got to My SECOND ATTORNEY.
I’ll go further and warn you NOT TO SIGN WHAT YOU DONT AGREE WITH– WITHOUT HAVING HEAVILY WEIGHED ANY AND ALL OPTIONS, OR WITHOUT INTENSIVE TALKS WITH YOUR ATTORNEY IF YOU HAVE ONE.
If YOU DON’T KNOW what you are going to be answering questions for, YOU DON’T GO INTO THE MEETING UNTIL YOU DO. Ask your attorney to make an appointment to view the file BEFORE going any further. The Board has been encouraged to fast track their cases to decrease their investigation times, as a result many nurses are falling victim to going in “cold” to interviews. Believe me, the Board has time to spare. They have cases that are at least 4 or more years old. THEY can WAIT for YOU to catalogue what’s being used to judge you. NURSES OUT OF ARIZONA—I highly suggest that you do the same and talk to your attorneys about the “Discovery Process” before you go before your own Boards of Nursing. In general, Administrative Law is a very tricky area and nurses do not get the same latitude or rights that murderers, rapists, or other criminals get in civil court. It’s prudent that you preserve what little rights you DO HAVE to ensure an effective defense that protects you and your license the best. ASK QUESTIONS! If your attorney can’t answer them, or appears more interested in pleasing the AZBON and talks more about pleasing THEM than DEFENDING YOU—find another attorney.
The following is a hand written letter I received from a Registered Nurse in Arizona. She asked that I publish it on my blog so that her story would be heard, which, I am happy to do because it resembles my own case in quite a few places….
“I was a nurse in good standing for 30+ years at Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona. I was fired from my job as a staff nurse on a Medical Surgical floor on April 15, 2010. I was reported to the Arizona Board of Nursing for being an unsafe staff nurse. I want you know that I have NEVER, in my career, physically or verbally abused a patient, stole drugs from a patient or hospital, or took drugs myself. I have made some medication errors over the years, as almost all—if not all—nurses do at some point or another, but I never overdosed or caused harm to any patient. In 2011 I was placed “on probation” for two years by the Arizona Board of Nursing. My lawyer advised me to sign the consent agreement, because if I didn’t I’d lose my nursing license. She told me not to tell the AZBON I was harassed and bullied by my boss because the BON would say that I was blaming the hospital instead of taking accountability for my actions. I spoke with Valerie Smith, RN, who (allegedly) explained the terms of the agreement to me in person. I told her I did not feel comfortable signing the agreement for her because there were several false statements in the consent agreement. She (allegedly) told me to initial the ones I thought were false. I asked her what good that would do me. She then (allegedly) told me not to hash over the past and ‘get over it and get on with’ my life. I worked in the same hospital for 34 years as a direct care nurse, and I had never met another nurse who would say such a thing to another nurse….I will not be forgetting that anytime soon.
The following restrictions were placed on my license:
I cannot work nights.
I cannot work for home health, registry, outpatient hospice, or travel agencies.
I had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. (Which, I passed)
I had to take a pharmacology course. (Which, I passed)
I had to take an RN refresher course. (A $2,000.00 cost to me)
I must WORK as an RN for 2 YEARS WHILE ON PROBATION before I can get OFF PROBATION.
I have not been able to find a job. Anywhere. The job I had finally found fired me the same day they found out I was put on probation even though I was never late for work or called in sick or had any patient complaints. They told me they did not want a “nurse on probation” working for them and weren’t willing to do the paperwork that the AZBON was asking them to complete for me to work there. The Arizona Board of Nursing says I can work while on probation. The State of Arizona says I cannot work. I spoke with a Director of Nursing in Phoenix who told me her boss will not allow her to hire any nurse on probation or a nurse with any complaints on their nursing license. I also talked to an employment lawyer in Phoenix and he said that nurses on probation in Arizona are BLACKLISTED. In 2013 I wrote a letter to both my Nurse Investigator (Nikki Austin) and the Monitoring Department of the Arizona Board of Nursing.
I requested to be taken off of probation due to the fact I could not find a job in Nursing. I had also sent them a letter of recommendation I received from my instructors in the RN Refresher Program I completed. I was recognized as the first nurse in my group to correctly identify what was wrong with my patient, I was the only nurse in five groups of nurses who communicated with each member of my team. Nikki Austin, whom I never did meet in person or spoke with on the phone through the entire investigation, never answered my letter.
Policy and medication errors are made by 100% of nurses at some point in their careers that do not result in patient harm. This is the human part of our job. Not one of us is perfect, no matter what we show everyone around us. Nurses reported to the Arizona Board of Nursing for these types of errors are placed on probation and can never resume their careers from that point forward—while nurses that physically and verbally abuse patients or make errors that harm or kill people get a “Letter of Concern” from the Board that is never made public and is not considered a form of discipline. Here is an example I found in the AZBON minutes: Recently, a nurse gave a 94 year old patient 2mg. of IV Dilaudid, resulting in the respiratory arrest and death of the patient. This nurse received a “Letter of Concern” by the Arizona Board of Nursing. To me, it is basic common sense not to give an elderly patient that high a dose of a strong narcotic. In Arizona, nurses are told to self-report errors and self-report to the Arizona Board of Nursing, if they violate the Nurse Practice Act. In this day, that is an act of career suicide. What staff nurse will self-report an error if he or she knows that nurses on probation, who haven’t caused any injury to their patients—will always have difficulty finding another job in their chosen profession that they went to school for years to be a part of?
There ARE OTHER WAYS TO DISCIPLINE NURSES. To hold them accountable and re- educate them without causing such damage to not just the nurse, but to their families too. Technically speaking, I should have been able to go back to work after completing the Pharmacology course and the RN Refresher course. Personally, I think the course benefitted the college more than it did me because I had to pay $2,000.00 to the college in order to enroll.
I am writing this letter to you in hopes you will put it on your site and share it so that the Board will be exposed for what they are doing to hundreds of nurses that are doing the best they can in these times when staff has basically been cut in half. I have used up all of my savings and retirement funds, and I have no medical insurance. I can’t pay for it. I am 62 years old now. While I know I do not have much time left to work, even if I could never work again, I want my nursing status returned to a “Nurse in Good Standing.” After all I have done in my career to care for people, I deserve that. I hope you can at least tell my story the way you told yours.