Although there are some rules, almost anyone can claim a nurse acted unprofessionally. The New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions (OP) will investigate these allegations and if the investigation supports the allegations move forward with disciplinary action. The Board of Regents is ultimately responsible for the final disposition of disciplinary matters unless handled by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC).
Allegations of unprofessional conduct are serious, as penalties can include fines of up to $10,000 per violation, suspension, or probation and even revocation of the professional’s nursing license.
What are examples of unprofessional conduct?
Unprofessional conduct is a failure of the accused professional to meet the expected standards of the profession. Common examples of unprofessional conduct include:
- Incompetence or negligence. This can result from a single mistake or multiple errors.
- Allowing others to practice without a license. The OP will consider provision of aid or having the knowledge and failing to intervene when another individual completes tasks that require a nursing license unprofessional.
- A nurse cannot refuse to treat a patient based on their race or nation of origin.
- Criminal actions. Any abuse or other criminal convictions can also rise to the level of unprofessional conduct.
- This includes practicing under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Proper provision of records. The OP will also claim unprofessional conduct if a nurse fails to follow proper protocol to provide a patient with copies of their medical records as requested.
As noted above these allegations, if supported, can lead to serious penalties. The Board of Regents chose to move forward with disciplinary action against nineteen professional nurses in December of 2022 alone. These actions range from boundary violations to drunk driving, car accidents to inadequate treatment and include a nurse who was given two years suspension, two years stayed probation and a $500 fine for a driving while intoxicated conviction and another who received one-month actual suspension, twenty three months stayed suspension, two years probation and a $500 fine for failing to provide appropriate aid and document care to patient after patient fell and broke a hip.
What are my options if I face allegations of unprofessional conduct?
The first step is to review the allegations. It is possible there was an error in the complaint, or that the allegations were unfounded. If you cannot get the case dismissed, you can move forward to defend your position and bring in evidence and witnesses to help argue your case. You can also hire legal counsel to help build this defense and better ensure a more favorable outcome.
If these steps are not successful, the next is to negotiate a reasonable penalty. It is possible to obtain a lesser penalty or push for additional education instead of suspension or other options.
Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication