Our attorneys represent nurses with matters before the Board of Nursing, such as disciplinary hearings, investigations, licensure appeals and other matters. Chapman Law Group has been representing health professionals for over 25 years and is dedicated to the defense of nurses. Several of our attorneys practice nursing license defense full-time and frequently represent nurses before the Board of Nursing for hearings, investigations, complaints, licensure appeals and other disciplinary matters. We are passionate about the defense of nurses and fight aggressively to protect the nursing licenses and careers of our clients.
When an administrative complaint is filed that seeks to strip a nurse of his/her nursing license or discipline a nurse, the nurse has a right to request a hearing and a right to access the courts. In Florida, when the Department of Health (DOH) files an administrative complaint, DOH immediately mails a copy of the complaint to the nurse along with an Election of Rights form. The Election of Rights form notifies the nurse of his/her right to a hearing and gives the nurse the option to elect to have an informal hearing before the Board of Nursing or a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. If you received an administrative complaint against your nursing license, you or your attorney must complete the Election of Rights form and submit the form to DOH within 21 days of the date the administrative complaint was received. If you fail to file the Election of Rights form within 21 days, you waive your right to a hearing and an opportunity to have your case heard in court.
An attorney experienced in nursing license defense, Board of Nursing hearings and administrative hearings will be able to listen to the facts of your case and determine which type of hearing is best for you. You should contact an attorney immediately if you received an administrative complaint to ensure that you select the proper hearing and file your Elections of Rights form within the 21-day deadline to preserve your rights.
Option one is a request for an informal hearing before the nursing board. The Board of Nursing cannot decide facts at a hearing, therefore an informal hearing before the BON is only for cases where the nurse does not dispute the facts alleged in the administrative complaint or where a nurse has entered into a settlement agreement with the Board of Nursing. While this is a good option for some, it is not the best option for most. Informal hearings can be compared to a “plea deal.” Because you cannot dispute the facts alleged in the complaint, you are more or less, asking the Board of Nursing for mercy.
While you may not dispute the facts alleged in the administrative complaint, we urge you to hire an attorney. Often the cost of an attorney is less than the cost of sanctions and possible ramifications that will follow if a negative action is taken against your nursing license. An attorney may be able to have the case dismissed, have a letter of reprimand issued in lieu of formal action, or greatly reduce sanctions and probation/monitoring requirements.
We are experienced in handling nursing license issues and work with DOH, LARA and the Florida and Michigan Board of Nursing daily to resolve claims against nurses. Even if there is no dispute as to the allegations, our nursing board license defense attorneys can negotiate with the Board of Nursing on your behalf to minimize the damage to your nursing license.
Option two is a request for a formal hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Michigan Administrative Hearing System (MAHS) or Florida Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). Unlike informal hearings, you may dispute the facts alleged in the administrative complaint during a formal hearing. Formal hearings are held before a neutral judge and proceed much like other court proceedings. Because formal hearings are in court and similar to other court proceedings, the rules of evidence, procedure and administrative law code applies. Each party is given the opportunity to present their argument. The nurse may call witnesses and cross-examine DOH & LARA witnesses and present evidence. The Department of Health or LARA has the burden to prove their case by clear and convincing evidence.
After the formal hearing, the ALJ will issue a Recommended Order to the Board of Nursing. The Board of Nursing will then issue a final order. The nurse has the opportunity to submit exceptions to BON if he/she disagrees with the ALJ’s Recommended Order. Once the final order is issued by the Board of Nursing, the nurse can file an appeal with the District Court of Appeals if he/she disagrees with the Board of Nursing’s final order.
Formal hearings are a great opportunity to present your case and challenge the allegations made against you; however, they require knowledge of administrative code and evidentiary laws to achieve the best outcome. Therefore, we strongly advise against nurses representing themselves in formal administrative hearings. Our attorneys are experienced in Nursing Board hearings and ALJ hearings and can aggressively advocate for you to help protect your nursing license.
The most significant difference between the two types of hearings is that a formal hearing forces the Department of Health or LARA to prove their case in administrative court; whereas an informal hearing does not because the facts are not in dispute. The standard of proof required for DOH or LARA to prove a claim at an administrative hearing is much higher than the standard required for them to file an administrative complaint. Therefore, in some cases, a nurse may be successful in challenging an administrative complaint at a formal hearing merely because DOH or LARA cannot prove their case. Often this is because DOH or LARA lacks sufficient evidence required to prove the claims.
While it may sound easy to represent yourself at formal ALJ hearing or an informal Board of Nursing hearing, we strongly advise you hire an attorney. The Board of Nursing’s duty is to protect the public, not nurses. You must fully present your argument in the best possible light to show that you are safe to practice and are not a danger to the public. If you choose to represent yourself, this can be difficult to do. In a formal hearing, you must not only know the facts of your case, but you must also know the law and rules of evidence and know how to spot issues with the opposing party’s argument. You must put forth your best arguments and be prepared to articulate why the opposing party has failed to substantiate their claim. This requires knowledge of the law and the required elements of proof for each claim. You must know how to properly admit your supporting evidence and oppose evidence offered by the DOH or LARA. In an informal hearing before the Board of Nursing, the rules are less stringent, but there are rules and you need to follow them. Presenting your case requires communication skill, knowledge of the facts of the case, and Board procedure. Don’t trust your professional license to an inexperienced person or yourself.
We understand that the cost of a nursing board license defense attorney may discourage some nurses from seeking legal representation; however, the cost of negative licensing action is often far greater than the cost of an attorney. Not only can the immediate cost of sanctions be several thousands of dollars, but negative action on your nursing license can lead to job loss, among many other things.
Chapman Law Group is passionate about the defense of nurses. Our attorneys practice health care law full-time and have a depth of experience. Our goal is not only to protect your nursing license but to reduce the damage to your nursing license, career and reputation caused by the allegations. Please contact our attorneys immediately if you received an administrative complaint or have other issues that require a hearing before the Board of Nursing. Our nursing board license defense attorneys would be honored to represent you before the Board of Nursing and help advocate on your behalf.