Florida Nursing License Defense 101: The Top Three Biggest Mistakes to Avoid
Florida Nursing License Defense: The Top Three Biggest Mistakes to Avoid.
Receiving notice of a complaint from the Florida Department of Health is frightening and stressful. However, you can take steps to defend your license and your reputation. The most important first step is to contact a Nurse Attorney to get the legal representation you need to protect yourself and your nursing license. This article will discuss the “Top Three” biggest mistakes to avoid.
The biggest mistake is to ignore the Notice from the Florida Department of Health. When you receive a notice letter from the Florida Department of Health informing that a complaint has been received, you have twenty (20) days to submit a response. Unfortunately, many nurses panic, feel emotionally paralyzed or frozen, or become so overwhelmed that they do nothing at all and take no action. Some nurses believe that if they just ignore the notice letter, doing nothing at all will be better than providing a response. Some nurses secretly hope that by ignoring the notice letter the Department of Health will decide to abandon the complaint and dismiss it. However, the simple truth is that ignoring the notice letter is the same as admitting that the facts in the complaint letter are true, and ignoring the notice letter is the same as agreeing to the pending charges. It is extremely important to not only have your attorney prepare the written response to the notice letter, but to also serve the response to the notice letter within the twenty (20) day deadline.
The second biggest mistake is talk to the Investigator or send a response to the notice letter without having an attorney involved. So many, many nurses believe that the “right thing to do” is to just tell the Investigator what happened, and/or give an explanation as to why the nurse did or did not do certain things alleged. Even simple, seemingly innocent, and small details given to the Investigator can be used against you. For example, even admitting that you worked on the date in question, or that other co-workers were present, or that you had any knowledge of what happened, can make or break the case against you. As another example in a complaint alleging drug diversion, admitting to taking any medications – even nonnarcotic type medications – can be used against you.
The Department of Health Investigator may make it seem that merely talking with him/her is harmless and would be helpful. DO NOT BE MISLED into thinking that a “casual” conversation will not harm you! Talking with an Investigator poses so many problems, whether the conversation is recorded, or not.
The Department of Health has the legal burden to prove their case by “clear and convincing” evidence, so if they can’t prove that you were working on the date in question, or they don’t have additional witnesses or co-workers to prove the allegations in the complaint, chances are strong they may not have the evidence to prove their case against you. Every case is different with its own unique facts and circumstances, so there is no “one size fits all” response. It’s very important to have a Nurse Attorney on your side to review all of the facts and evidence, and determine the best strategy and response.
The third biggest mistake is to elect an “Informal Hearing” with the Election of Rights form. The same bad outcome can happen if the deadline is missed for submitting the Election of Rights form. Agreeing to an Informal Hearing waives all rights to challenge the facts and evidence, and is essentially an agreement that every fact as alleged in the complaint is true. An Informal Hearing is really the same as a sentencing hearing in a criminal case, after the verdict has already been determined. Waiving your right to demand a “Formal Hearing” to challenge the facts and evidence is pretty much the same as entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere in a criminal case. If you demand a Formal Hearing with the Election of Rights form, you can always change your mind later on and agree to an Informal Hearing. However, you don’t have the same right to change your mind if you elect an Informal Hearing with the Election of Rights form, or if you miss the deadline to request a Formal Hearing. It’s always better to preserve your right to dispute the alleged facts and challenge the evidence. The entire complaint and disciplinary process is complex and complicated, and requires a Nurse Attorney who knows the Administrative Law process. Challenging the evidence and fighting the case against you requires a Nurse Attorney who also is experienced with litigation.
Contact Us Today at (941) 210-4220 to get started with the legal representation you need and deserve.
Marjorie Chalfant, RN, JD
Registered Nurse & Trial Attorney
What Most Lawyers Don’t Know, a Nurse Attorney Does!
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