Professional Nursing License Defense Lawyers in South Carolina
The attorneys at The Jeffcoat Firm are valuable assets to South Carolina nurses whose careers are threatened due to allegations of professional wrongdoing. The stakes are high when a professional license is in jeopardy, with ramifications that can impact a licensee’s job prospects and reputation forever. Our lawyers can provide a vigorous defense for nurses throughout the entire administrative investigation by the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR).
If you have been notified that an LLR investigation is underway, the best thing you can do is contact a nursing license defense attorney. You are entitled to legal representation from the moment you receive the notification. Working together, you and your lawyer can develop a strategy that can protect your rights and work to eliminate or minimize any disciplinary action that might be taken.
You don’t have to face the S.C. Nursing Board or any official alone. For information on how we can help, contact our Columbia nursing license defense attorneys to arrange for a free consultation.
Common Allegations Against Nurses
The most common complaints that are filed with the South Carolina Nursing Board include:
- Criminal misconduct or conviction
- Practicing under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
- Dependence on or abuse of alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs
- Diverting narcotics for personal use
- Engaging in inappropriate relationships with patients
- Failing to properly chart or document information
- Failing to properly waste narcotics
- Patient abuse
- Sexual misconduct
- Practicing outside of the scope of your license
Because these allegations can be so serious and because they can completely ruin your reputation, career, and ability to make a living, you should contact a nursing license defense attorney in South Carolina as soon as you receive notice that a complaint has been filed. Do not be tempted to ignore the charge, hoping that it will go away or blow over. This is your profession at stake. There are serious legal, financial, and psychological consequences to consider.
It takes a lot of hard work to obtain a South Carolina Nursing License. Receiving notification that an LLR investigator is looking into a complaint against you can send it all crashing to the ground. Do not respond to the investigator without first consulting a South Carolina nursing license defense attorney about your unique situation and your legal rights.
Keep in mind that a complaint does not automatically indicate guilt. You should not be afraid that you’ll lose your license without a fair investigation, and you should defend your innocence. In fact, you must, if you want to avoid losing your reputation and your license altogether.
What Is the Role of the SC Nursing Board?
The state Board of Nursing is the regulating body of the profession. It has the authority to:
- Conduct investigations over violations to the Nurse Practice Act
- Issue licensures and authorize renewals
- Publish advisory opinions relating to nursing policies and procedures
- Develop minimal standards for initial licensure and continued competency
- Survey educational enrollments
- Create minimum standards for nursing education
- Approve nursing education programs
- Establish fees
- Develop guidelines for employers when nursing errors occur that can be remedied in the workplace
If you’re facing an LLR complaint that could affect your license, the Nursing Board will be the decisionmaker about any disciplinary action. Getting an attorney who is familiar with the complexities of the Board’s practices and procedures can help you craft a solid defense.
How Does the Nursing Board Complaint Process Work?
An LLR complaint can come from anyone: a patient, family member of a patient, employer, coworker, law enforcement official, employer or spouse, to name a few. A complaint can be filed online, by phone or by mail. Once the complaint is filed, a multi-step process begins.
- An analyst will review the complaint. If they believe the claim has merit, it will move to the Office of Investigations and Enforcement (OIE). If they deem that no violation occurred, the case is closed.
- The assigned investigator will research the complaint in further detail. The investigator must be able to show that your actions violated the Nurse Practice Act to trigger a possible disciplinary action.
- You will be asked to provide a written statement during the investigative process. Our nursing license defense lawyer can help you draft your statement to ensure that the investigator gets a full understanding of your side of the story. We can also make sure that you completely understand the allegations against you and respond to those appropriately.
- An investigation will include gathering evidence, contacting witnesses and reviewing any documentation relevant to the complaint. You will also be asked for an interview. Our attorneys have the experience to anticipate what questions will be asked. We can help you prepare your responses ahead of time to reduce nervousness on the day of the interview.
- The investigator will present the case to the Internal Review Committee (IRC). They will decide whether the complaint should move forward to the Nursing Board for disciplinary action.
- The Nursing Board makes the ultimate decision. Depending on the circumstances, you may end up with a dismissal, letter of caution or proceed to a formal complaint.
- If a formal complaint is issued, the Office of General Counsel will prepare a document of the charges and violations. You will be served a copy and the case will move toward a full hearing. It’s possible that you may be offered a consent agreement.
What Is a Consent Agreement?
Sometimes the IRC will attempt to negotiate with a nurse under investigation. They may offer a consent agreement, in which the nurse and the state would come to an agreement on the facts of the case, the violations and the proposed sanctions. The Board of Nursing can accept or reject the agreement. You should speak with one of our professional license defense attorneys before signing a consent agreement. The terms can be challenged and it’s possible than some of the sanctions could be minimized.
What Happens If a Nurse Does Not Sign a Consent Agreement?
If no agreement can be reached, you have the right to proceed to a full hearing before the board. It is handled like a court trial. An attorney from the Office of General Counsel will present the case, and you will present your rebuttal. You are not required to have your own lawyer during the hearing. However, an experienced South Carolina nursing license defense attorney who is familiar with LLR investigations can help you know what to expect and how to respond to every allegation.
Once both sides of the case are presented, the Board will deliberate and make a final order to dismiss the case or move forward with sanctions.
There could be several outcomes:
- License revocation – Automatic cancellation or withdrawal of license, either temporarily or permanently.
- Suspension – Temporarily removes authorization to practice for a definite or indefinite period of time.
- Stayed suspension – Allows the nurse to continue working under certain probationary conditions.
- Public or private reprimand – Creates an official record of discipline. A private reprimand is kept confidential, whereas anyone can read a public reprimand.
- Letter of caution – Written warning about past or future conduct that could constitute misconduct. These are issued when the Board finds no misconduct occurred or that the conduct was so minor that no disciplinary action is needed.
- Practice restrictions/probation – May be lifted after educational or other training requirements are met.
- Fines – $2,000 for each violation not to exceed $10,000. Must be paid in full before the nursing license can be reinstated.
Can I Appeal My Nursing License Case?
You can appeal an unfavorable decision from the S.C. Nursing Board. Your nursing license defense attorney can advise you about the pros and cons of pursuing an appeal, which will require a thorough knowledge of South Carolina law to prove that a legal error resulted in the disciplinary decision.
What Is Unprofessional Conduct in Nursing?
Nurses are expected to provide care that protects the health, safety and welfare of their patients. Any actions or omissions that fall short of that expectation have the potential to be labeled as unprofessional conduct.
Under South Carolina law, unprofessional conduct means any behavior that fails to meet the minimally acceptable standard of similarly situated individuals in the nursing profession. That could mean any conduct that impacts a nurse’s ability to perform their job effectively or violates the Nursing Board’s code of ethics.
Examples of unprofessional conduct include:
- Violating federal, state and local laws regarding alcohol and drugs
- Allowing another person to use your nursing license to practice
- Practicing outside the scope of your licensure
- Practicing with an invalid license
- Falsifying records
- Sharing patient’s confidential information with unauthorized persons
- Negligent practice
- Improper documentation
- Patient abandonment
- Improperly medicating or providing medication with no prescription to others, including yourself
- Indicating wasting of narcotics or controlled substances without having witnessed the wastage
What Is an Incompetent Nurse in South Carolina?
South Carolina law defines incompetence as the failure of a nurse to apply the knowledge, skill and care that is ordinarily used by nurses with the same licensure status.
Allegations of incompetence can stem from a single act or a series of actions or inactions that show a blatant disregard of accepted standards of the nursing profession. No one has to have been actually harmed by the action or series of actions in order for a nurse to be found incompetent.
Can a Revoked Nursing License Be Reinstated?
A nursing license may be revoked permanently or for a period of time specified by the Nursing Board. If your license was temporarily revoked, you can apply for reinstatement once it is shown that you have completed any necessary requirements set forth by the board.
Can You Be an SC Registered Nurse with a Felony Charge or Conviction?
South Carolina law does not immediately disqualify a nurse with a prior criminal record from licensure unless the violation is directly related to the profession.
However, the Nurse Practice Act can consider prior convictions to be grounds for nursing license revocation, suspension or practice-based restriction. If there has been no conviction, the Nursing Board can receive evidence to reach an independent conclusion as to the commission of the crime. That decision can only be used for administrative decisions regarding discipline.
Is Substance Abuse an Automatic Nursing License Suspension or Revocation?
Medical professionals work in stressful conditions. Unfortunately, some turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Some South Carolina nurses may be referred to the Recovering Professional Program for evaluation and monitoring. You can also voluntarily refer yourself to RPP if you suspect that you have a substance abuse problem.
Successfully completing the RPP requirements may allow you to return to nursing without facing additional discipline by the Board. Because every circumstance is unique, it is not possible to determine whether you could completely avoid a licensure penalty. You should speak with a nursing license defense attorney to understand more about the RPP and how it could be an alternative to help you.
Our Columbia and Lexington Nurse License Lawyers Can Help
It’s very important that you take allegations of nursing misconduct seriously. Just because you think the claims are weak does not mean that an investigator will think so, too. The smart decision is to contact The Jeffcoat Firm. Our years of experience handling professional license defense cases in South Carolina means that we are powerful allies in the entire LLR investigative process.
We handle various disciplinary matters, professional allegations, misconduct issues, and even criminal charges. Consultations are free. Contact our nursing license defense lawyers today to learn more about what we can do for you.