State Practice Act Liability Affects All Members of Wound Care Team

state practice act

Potential liability under your state practice act is something to always be aware of.

If you face an alleged violation of your practice act, professional disciplinary action can be initiated by the applicable board that administers and enforces the act.

Disciplinary actions are determined by each professional board such as the board of medicine, board of physical therapy, occupational therapy board, or board of nursing.

Professional disciplinary decisions are public records, and most state boards provide online access to them.

You can access and read decisions by conducting a Google search of your state and board name. Once on your board’s website, look for links like “Disciplinary Decisions” or “Enforcement Decisions.”

It is true that most decisions from professional boards are based upon the licensee’s professional practice, but not all decisions rest on that basis.

Let’s review a few decisions from professional state boards from various states over several years, as examples.

None of the disciplinary actions listed in this blog include wound care professionals. Even so, they underline how conduct that violates a practice act, or its regulations, can result in discipline.

State Practice Act Disciplinary Decision Examples

  • An RN was reprimanded, and she was ordered to pay a $500 fine for violating a client’s rights of privacy and confidentiality and for failing to conform to essential standards of nursing practice.
  • An RN’s license was suspended for failing to file and/or pay state income taxes.
  • An occupational therapist was reprimanded for failing to maintain accurate treatment records for his OT patients.
  • A physician was ordered to pay an $850 fine and complete eight hours of CME on patient safety, universal protocols, and/or risk management after he administered a nerve block to a patient that the orthopedic surgeon did not order.
  • A physical therapist’s license was suspended for failure to file and/or pay state income taxes.
  • An RN’s license was indefinitely suspended for a minimum of seven years and a fine of $1,000 was issued for submitting timecards to her staffing agency for work she did not do in the amount of $40,510.44.
  • A physician and surgeon had his licenses reprimanded due to allegations he failed to timely diagnose and treat a patient’s sepsis shock.
  • A physician was reprimanded, and he was required to take an additional four hours of CME (above the minimum required) for violating standards of practice established by board regulation.
  • An RN’s license was placed on indefinite probation with work restrictions for a minimum of 12 months after termination by her employer for testing positive for cannabis.
  • A physician’s license was suspended for 15 days, and he was fined $10,000 for “unprofessional conduct” due to his failure to cooperate with the state board of physicians.

More About Disciplinary Proceedings

As a government agency, a state regulatory board’s main responsibility is to protect the health and safety of the public. State legislatures grant regulatory boards the power to conduct and participate in cases of alleged violations of a practice act or rules.

Regulatory boards take this responsibility seriously as they administer and enforce a state practice act and base a decision on specific facts of each case.

You have rights in disciplinary proceedings. These rights are protected by the United States Constitution, your state constitution, and federal and state administrative procedure acts.

Some of those rights include:

  • Clear statement of the allegation(s) against you.
  • Notice of the time and place of any proceeding against you.
  • Right to legal representation.

Protect Yourself From Professional Disciplinary Actions

A complaint against you to a state professional board can be initiated by anyone — a patient, a patient’s family, a disgruntled member of your wound care team, or your employer.

Also, keep in mind that a patient injury is not a precondition for a violation of a practice act. Rather, it is the violation itself, if proven, that can result in a disciplinary action against you.

You can lessen the chances of a complaint by:

  • Knowing and adhering to your state practice act and rules.
  • Practicing consistently with current standards of practice for your wound care role.
  • Maintaining continued competency in wound care.
  • Conforming your practice to applicable ethical and legal mandates for wound care professionals.
  • Practicing professional conduct to avoid allegations of a violation of an act or rule’s “unprofessional conduct” provision that could extend beyond the delivery of wound care.
  • Documenting your wound care using well-established documentation principles.
  • Providing competent and timely wound care.
  • Never falsifying any document connected with your wound care practice.
  • Cooperating with any board proceeding should a complaint be filed against you with your attorney’s guidance.

Take a wound care course today!

wound care

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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