“The Discovery Process” and One Arizona RN’s Story

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.

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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.

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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.

Valerie Smith: Special Consultant to the executive director

Valerie Smith: Special Consultant to the executive director

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.

Thank You,

Catherine S.

Comments

  1. And that is exactly my story on why I Voluntarily Surrendered my RN license and walked out without even trying because I knew the AZBON history of corrupt practices. Then I got a letter saying they found my license on the table, and that I was to come in and explain why I just left it there without permission. HA HA!! There is absolutely no good to come from dealing with the AZBON, you will not get another RN position, ever. Facilities wash their hands of you the moment they find out you are or have faced the AZBON, as they know the AZBON are corrupt and they do not care about you, the RN. The facility does NOT want to come near the AZBON for fear of being under their corrupt control gun. The AZBON is NOT about helping RNs, but is about ruining the RNs careers, forever. I’m in charge of MY life, the AZBON is NOT in charge of even one minute of MY life. Period.

    • richard RN. says:

      I can believe these az board of nursing staff have the audacity to say to you, “you left your license on the table without OUR permission!” wow , where do they come up with this ?
      mother may I , ?
      The Arizona State Board Of Nursing is a joke among other nursing boards.
      I applaud you vanwomananne, in recognizing early on, you would just be digging yourself out constantly . They do not use due process but make you believe that you had due process.
      Most nurses do not see this early on, if they did no one would ever go into nursing school. !! notice all the ads on recently for nurses and high pay, etc, when their is NO shortage. ?

    • Great article Amanda, I like the picture of the flasher to remind nurses not to ‘expose ‘ themselves.
      Catherine S , you ARE A NURSE IN GOOD STANDING !!
      It does not matter what the BON has on their books or minds, it has been proven time and again, they are the most corrupt , evil minded group of sinister doers.
      Maybe some day the AZ Nurse Association, will actually DO something to stop this horrific miscarrage of justice .
      Of course they are all busy getting higher degrees so they can be a mgr somewhere, and have control over nurses on the job.

  2. One thing that is not being discussed, is the well known fact that most facilities are doing whatever they can to rid themselves of most of the older and higher paid RNs in favor of hiring younger less experienced RNs in order to pay far less dollars for the “help.” They do, keep only a few of the experienced nurses as a backbone to help teach those newly graduated nurses. If they did not keep a few seasoned nurses, then their facility would not survive because the new nurses do not have the experience to even know when a patient is sneakily going downhill. Sepsis, as one good example, can be difficult if not almost impossible to recognize by an inexperienced nurse. Whereas the older experienced nurse catches it in a quick minute. It’s too bad that the older nurses are simply being thrown away for the sake of a few dollars. It IS THOSE nurses who are important to any facility and they should be treasured, but they are not, and are only being viewed by the dollar sign. FOLLOWING THE MONEY again, you see the corruption easily.

    • RachelT.BSN says:

      And the BON in AZ is helping the hosptials rid the older nurses by taking them down like they did the nurse from Yavapai Regional . what ‘s with this ordering a psych eval ???? there was NO reason for that. , just ordering it and putting it out there for all to see, is disgraceful.
      very old tactics. she crazy, its her fault, stone her, hang her in the town square. woman are treated as second rate citizens in AZ and the worst ones are the other women helping the men do them in.
      Very sad story for this nurse, nursing had to be her indentity to end her career like that. When a ‘nurse eater” , mgt at yrmc, who recently died , had an obituary like she was some kind of hero,
      Only in her own mind. Remember that Bd members, YOu have destroyed lives, and did not do anything for public safety.

  3. nursewithaheart says:

    CATHERINE s , PLEASE start a petition. I’ll be the first to sign it. !
    Who cares what the az board of nursing thinks, your true friends and family know the truth.
    Dont look for their stamp of approval, they have not earned ANY respect at all. Anyone tells me they are on the Bd of were on the Board, I want to get away from them immedately , I dont want to be tainted by what ever they have.
    Horrible excuses for human beings. all of them .
    and when you say Nikki Austin, hey every instructor who does re entry has heard her name, who describe her as ” a real nurse destroyer in good standing. ”
    The AZ Board of Nursing NUTS know very well that a nurse cannot find work on probation. How would they like to be put out of work and lose their ability to earn a living. ? each time they accept money for what they are doing, and enjoy the fruits of someone else demise, I can only wonder who the hell raised these sociopaths who can do this to another human being who is trying to do the best they can in this life and make a living in all they know, and really love nursing , what are you suppose to do at age 62? go back to college?
    LIfe detroyers. just plain evil.

    • dontbeanurseinAZ says:

      In the end all of the money will be worthless, all that the board did , your ways directed by money. and for what and for whom, you will be judged one day. try saying, ‘public safety ” then.
      catherine S did not need a refresher class , after 34 years at the bedside or pharmacology class. She did what any nurse in the same position would have done.
      I would want her for my nurse, cant say the same about any of the board members.
      Their poor decisions collectively on the board, speak to their behavior at work. The BON AZ , members have certainly lost public trust!
      Absolutely no evidence ever placed a patient in harm.
      And Nikki Austin cant even return a call, that is the importance of your situation to her, when it tore your identity away, stole your money to support yourself, put you out of work, humiliated you, put your name in the nursing magazine, you were fired for money saving reasons then fired again because you were on probation. Lost your daily contact with co workers, friends, others turn against you so they wont be on the mgrs bad side, BON making you drive over 200 miles to stamp your license, further humiliation, putting on the internet your license probation, like a criminal on probation, left you without medical insurance, found yourself sitting in lawyers offices, your life unside down, cashing in retirement savings to leave your retirement you worked so hard for questionable.
      Why would anyone go to school to be a nurse in ARIZONA??

      • AZBON, listen up! You are each, every board member, corrupt in your practices with evil intentions and you all plan to ruin each and every RN who walks through your doors. AZBON is NOT about helping any RN. But they do make life miserable for those who do have to suffer through the requirements that are simply unjust and obviously a scripted requirement to allow the AZBON to hand down without thought or effort. NO effort is ever done to investigate cases by any of the AZBON members. It’s simply not done! AZBON hands out the sanctions like a lottery. Oh wow, one gets a Letter of Concern, one gets the maximum requirements to meet. Which list of demands is this RN going to get? Pick at random from the stack of papers to draw from, like a random card in a deck, and just shove it into their case file.

        When an RN who has been found to have stolen and diverted many narcotics from the hospital gets a Letter of Concern? I can only say, that RN got the luck of the AZBONs draw from the deck of penalty papers. Had the AZBON even read the case, they would not have simply given a Letter of Concern! SO, are they corrupt? Yes. The AZBON IS CORRUPT and metes out justice like a 3rd world country sheriff by imprisoning an RN for small infractions. Oh, I didn’t update the AZBON with my new address, now I lose my license? Well, I guess that’s just the random pick of the AZBONs draw. LOL.

        SO, AZBON, how often do you update the draw? In what little office do you each hide in when you pick from the draw to determine what the RN is to suffer? Clearly,

        Yes, everywhere, the many other states’ BONs are laughing at AZBON because they see too what is going on. What is going on? The AZBONs motions, picking from the draw, putting it into the RNs case file, whether fair or not. It is their decision. To investigate? Nah, that requires work, thought, and ethics. The AZBON members do NOT do their jobs.

        Just the simple fact that they, the AZBON, now hide too many cases from public view, and is ludicrous at best and just an unsuccessful attempt to hide what the AZBON is NOT DOING RIGHT. They hide those cases because other states’ BONs are looking at them with a magnifying glass and laughing at them. IF the AZBON does hide them, no one can read them and make that easy determination that the AZBON did nothing but go through the wrong motions. But, it’s just a matter of time before ALL those cases ARE OPENED UP FOR ALL TO SEE.

        AZBON? Don’t you each feel like you are swimming in a sea with no rescue in sight? LOLOLOLOL. You deserve that for what you have not done: YOUR JOBS WHICH TAXPAYERS PAY YOU TO DO AND TO DO FAIRLY USING HONESTY AND JUSTICE.

        That’s exactly why I laid my license down on the table and walked out. I knew the cost of fighting, and since I choose ALL of my battles and I also choose what I wish to spend money on, the AZBON was NOT one of those battles and I certainly was NOT going to give them even a dime. Yeah, they published my entire case online which shows my name and address, but who cares? I don’t anymore. I changed my name, moved my home and literally walked out of the AZBONs life for good. As I said, FOR GOOD! THEY do NOT own me for one minute of my life. After they sent the letter demanding me to come in to the office to explain why I did not discuss my Voluntary Surrender of my RN license, which I ignored, they then sent me the letter of my entire AZBON case a month later, to sign and return to them within so many days; I think it was 10 days to return it within. Ha! I signed it and waited over 3 months to return it to them. That was just for my convenience, and really, I didn’t make the time to drive to the post office just for the AZBON.

        I had my life to live, and my minutes are ALL spent on MY life and when I finally did return it, there was not even a tear drop. In fact, the only reason I did put it in the mail 3 months later, was because I had other things to mail. That was the only reason I mailed it…late…and without postage and no return address. I don’t even know if they ever even received it, and I don’t care, but it was mailed. DO I have a total lack of respect for the AZBON? Yes. I’m not sorry, but my respect for others, including the AZBON, must be earned, as is trust.

        The AZBON does nothing to earn trust by any RNs. ALL RNs know that once they are in the AZBONs radar and gripped by their talons, there is no good to come of it, only lost careers, lost money, and the agony of doing what the AZBON orders you to do and pay for. So sorry, to the AZBON, but I refused your demands and I walked out of your little office forever. Ha!

        The unfortunate thing is, not ALL RNs are near retirement as I was, and are able to do this kind of thing, and my heart goes out to each and every one of them who have suffered or died, or even taken their own life because of the life and career rape the AZBON has forced upon them. I was approaching retirement, so stepping out of the AZBONs life was a fairly easy thing to accomplish. I did so and was successful.

        I have ZERO respect for what the AZBON has NOT done FOR nursing. I have ZERO respect for the AZBON members. They are no better than an AZbinLADEN. Out for attack, under the guise of JUSTICE. Please. Don’t suffer me with your blatant acts of dishonesty and corruption!

        SOME of US RNs can clearly see the AZBONs corruption. SOME of US RNs are still working RN jobs. IF only you knew who we are? If only ALL RNs would learn to work together and protect each other from the AZBON. THAT would be a miracle! STOP the Horizontal Violence and that will protect every RN from being under the control of the AZBON.

  4. John Davis says:

    Like somebody said that the AZBON is a joke to many other Boards, however they do control Arizona. If you live here your abilities to work are governed by a group that are of a Hitler mentality. There are some well known entities of Board members that are being made well known to the public. The public is made up of not them kinds of spiritual beliefs. Many of us are not them kinds of spiritual groups that are monstrous in numbers and in powerful positions through out the state. You got to be white and straight to get a ‘get out of jail card free.’

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