The attorneys at The Jeffcoat Firm are valuable assets to South Carolina nurses whose careers are threatened due to allegations of professional wrongdoing. Our lawyers can provide a vigorous defense for nurses throughout the entire investigative process.
- What Is the Role of the South Carolina Nursing Board?
- What Is Unprofessional Conduct in Nursing?
- What Is an Incompetent Nurse in South Carolina?
- How Does the Nursing Board Complaint Process Work?
- What Is a Consent Agreement
- What Happens If a Nurse Does Not Sign a Consent Agreement?
- Nursing License Defense FAQ
- Our Experienced Columbia and Lexington Nursing License Defense Lawyers Will Protect You
What Is the Role of the South Carolina Nursing Board?
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR) oversees the licensing, training, regulation, education, and enforcement of over forty professions in the state, including nursing.
The South Carolina Board of Nursing is the profession’s only regulating body in South Carolina, and oversees the following aspects:
- Approve nursing education programs
- Conduct investigations over violations to the Nurse Practice Act
- Create minimum standards for nursing education
- Develop guidelines for employers when nursing errors occur that can be remedied in the workplace
- Develop minimal standards for initial licensure and continued competency
- Establish feesIssue licenses and authorize renewals
- Publish advisory opinions relating to nursing policies and procedures
- Survey educational enrollments
The authority of the nursing board is far-reaching and can negatively impact your career; if you’re facing an LLR complaint that could affect your license, the nursing board will be the decision-maker about any disciplinary action. All it takes is one complaint about an investigation to be launched, putting your personal and professional reputation and well-being in jeopardy.
What Is Unprofessional Conduct in Nursing?
Nurses are expected to provide care that protects the health, safety, and welfare of their patients. Under South Carolina law, unprofessional conduct is any behavior that fails to meet the minimally acceptable standard of similarly-situated individuals in the nursing profession. In other words, any action that impacts a nurse’s ability to perform their job effectively or violates the nursing board’s code of ethics can be labeled as unprofessional conduct.
Some of the most common complaints that are filed with the South Carolina Nursing Board are listed below:
- Allowing another person to use your nursing license to practice
- Criminal misconduct or conviction
- Dependence on or abuse of alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs (including practicing under the influence)
- Diverting narcotics for personal use or use by others
- Engaging in inappropriate relationships with patients
- Failing to properly waste narcotics or controlled substances
- Falsifying records or improper documentation
- Negligent practice
- Patient abandonment
- Patient abuse
- Practicing outside of the scope of your license
- Practicing with an invalid license
- Sexual misconduct
- Sharing patient’s confidential information with unauthorized persons
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 for accepted standards of the nursing profession. No one actually has to have been harmed by the action, inaction, or series of actions/inactions in order for a nurse to be found incompetent.
How Does the Nursing Board Complaint Process Work?
An LLR complaint can come from anyone, including a patient, patient’s family member, employer, coworker, law enforcement official, or spouse. 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 OIE 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 stress and 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 (OGC) 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.
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 have the right to defend your innocence.
However, even if untrue, these allegations can be very serious and have the potential to ruin your reputation, career, and ability to make a living. Do not be tempted to ignore the charge(s); this is your livelihood at stake, and there are serious legal, financial, and psychological consequences to consider. Getting an attorney who is familiar with the complexities of the board’s practices and procedures can help you craft a solid defense and save your license. Contact The Jeffcoat Firm’s nursing license defense attorneys as soon as you receive notice that a complaint has been filed.
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 come to an agreement on the facts of the case, the violations, and the proposed sanctions. The SC State Board of Nursing then accepts or rejects the agreement. You should speak with one of The Jeffcoat Firm’s professional license defense attorneys before signing a consent agreement. The terms can be challenged, and the sanctions potentially can 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. A full hearing is handled like a court trial: An attorney from the OGC will present the case and you will present your rebuttal. You are not required to have a 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 best to respond.
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 are several potential outcomes:
- Fines: $2,000 for each violation (not to exceed $10,000) which must be paid in full before the nursing license can be reinstated
- Letter of caution: A written warning about past or future conduct that could constitute misconduct; letters of caution are issued when the board finds no misconduct occurred or that the misconduct was so minor that no disciplinary action is needed.
- License revocation: Automatic cancellation or withdrawal of the license, either temporarily or permanently
- Practice restrictions/probation: Limitations placed on one or more aspects of practice; may be lifted after educational or other training requirements are met
- Public or private reprimand: Creates an official record of discipline; a private reprimand is kept confidential, whereas anyone can read a public reprimand
- Stayed suspension: Allows the nurse to continue working under certain probationary conditions
- Suspension: Temporarily removes authorization to practice for a definite or indefinite period of time
Nursing License Defense FAQ
You can appeal an unfavorable decision from the SC State 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 nursing law to prove that a legal error resulted in the disciplinary decision.
Can a Revoked Nursing License Be Reinstated?
A nursing license may be revoked permanently or for a period of time as specified by the SC State 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 a South Carolina 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 (RPP) 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 from the SC State Nursing Board. Because every case is unique, it is not possible to determine whether you could completely avoid a licensure penalty or other disciplinary action. 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 Experienced Columbia and Lexington Nursing License Defense Lawyers Will Protect You
It takes a lot of hard work to obtain a South Carolina nursing license and receiving notification that an LLR investigator is looking into a complaint against you can be devastating.
If you have been notified that an LLR investigation is underway, you are immediately entitled to legal representation. 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.
You don’t have to face the SC Nursing Board or any official alone; your best course of action is to contact our Columbia RN license defense attorneys. Our years of experience handling professional and nurse license defense cases in South Carolina means that we are powerful allies to have during the entire LLR investigative process. Working together, you and your lawyer will develop a strategy that can protect your rights and minimize or even eliminate any disciplinary action that might be taken.
Our attorneys at The Jeffcoat Firm are always available, meaning you won’t waste any time waiting for a reply. Your initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose by contacting us.