A reprimand on your South Carolina nursing license can damage your professional reputation and harm your ability to earn a living. If this recently happened to you, we understand that you have already been through a long, frustrating process. We are here for you.
The Jeffcoat Firm’s South Carolina nursing license defense lawyers can help you avoid or mitigate a negative decision about a complaint against you and possibly save your career. Here, we explain the process that goes into a reprimand on your nursing license and other matters that you should consider as you move forward. To discuss the specific facts of your case, contact us today and allow us to review your case in a free consultation.
What Is a Letter of Public Reprimand on a Nursing License?
South Carolina law states specifically that a licensed nurse “is accountable to the public for the quality of nursing care.” Anyone can file a complaint against a nurse, including a patient, member of the patient’s family, fellow nurse or nursing supervisor. In fact, other nurses, nurse supervisors and nurse employers are required by law to report suspected violations of the Nurse Practice Act to the South Carolina Board of Nursing, or Board.
The Board, which is a part of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR), has the authority to investigate allegations of illegal, unethical and/or incompetent behavior on the part of an advanced practice registered nurse (APN), registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). If the Board finds that a nurse has committed a violation, it may fine the nurse thousands of dollars and hand down discipline such as:
- Revoking the nurse’s license
- Suspending the license
- Issuing a public or private reprimand
- Restricting the nurse’s authorization to practice pending completion of additional education and training and/or other reasonable requirements of probation.
A public reprimand is a publicly available statement by the Board that a nurse committed a violation. A private letter of reprimand is generally unavailable for others to view.
How Long Does a Nursing Board Public Reprimand Last?
A public reprimand attached to a South Carolina nursing license remains available to the public online here for three years. If discipline handed down by the Board includes a fine, the three-year life of the public reprimand does not begin until the fine has been paid. The law allows a fine of up to $2,000 per violation, up to a maximum of $10,000. Large fines may be paid in installments, but this delays the start of the three-year term of the public reprimand.
If you received a public reprimand, no process exists for expunging it from your file. You may continue to practice despite an active public reprimand on your record, but your practice will be restricted to South Carolina.
The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), which took effect in January 2018, makes any disciplinary action by the Board result in reversion to a single-state license. The eNLC enacted Uniform Licensure Requirements (ULRs) that are standard across eNLC member states. Among other requirements, the ULRs state that a nurse must hold an unencumbered license, which means a license without active discipline.
Can You Appeal a Disciplinary Action by the S.C. Board of Nursing?
If the Board decides to issue a letter of public reprimand or takes other disciplinary action, you have 30 days to appeal the order to the S.C. Administrative Law Court. This court holds hearings for people affected by actions or proposed actions of certain South Carolina state agencies.
When you appeal, you will request a hearing that involves following strict rules of procedure. During the hearing, each side can present testimony and question opposing witnesses. If you pursue an appeal, you should seek help from an attorney who has experience with handling administrative hearings.
An attorney may also help before a public reprimand is issued by negotiating for a consent agreement, which will state the facts of the case, statutory violations and sanctions that you accept. This agreement is much like a plea arrangement in the criminal justice context. In some situations, we may be able to negotiate to have a pubic reprimand reduced to a private one. The Board must approve a consent agreement before it takes effect.
You have a right to a full hearing before the Board. If you sign a consent agreement, you give up that right. So, you must carefully weigh your decision before you sign one, and you should first consult with an attorney.
Can I Continue to Practice Nursing with a Reprimand on My Record?
A public reprimand does not affect your ability to practice as a licensed nurse in South Carolina. If your employment situation is otherwise stable, and your supervisors understand the circumstances, you may be able to wait out the three-year term of a public letter of reprimand. However, like any mark on your record, it could be held against you if you must look for a new nursing job.
If you were to seek new employment with an active public reprimand on your record, it is imperative for you to disclose it if an employment application asks about your disciplinary history. Almost any organization will fire a new employee found to have provided false information on a job application or in an interview. Additionally, you must disclose even a private reprimand unless a potential employer asks only about “public” disciplinary actions against you, according to a Board advisory opinion.
You must also be prepared for a prospective employer to check the public database and find a public letter of reprimand against you without having asked you about disciplinary measures in your past.
You may find it beneficial to compose a prepared statement about the letter of reprimand and your explanation of the situation. The letter may express remorse, explain what you have learned and discuss why you believe you are a better nurse today. By attaching a copy of the letter of reprimand to your explanation when including it in job application packages, you are holding your head up and showing that you have nothing to hide.
Contact Our South Carolina Nursing License Defense Attorneys
The Jeffcoat Firm’s years of experience with handling professional license defense cases in South Carolina make us powerful allies if you are the subject of a complaint that leads to an LLR investigation and potential sanctions by the South Carolina Board of Nursing. To learn more about how we can help you, contact our nursing license defense lawyers today for a free consultation.