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IDFPR Legal Actions Against Nurses – What Do We Know?

There are many stories and circumstances that lead to a Nurses License being suspended or revoked, regardless of the facts, the actions have huge ramifications for an individual’s profession. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is the government entity in Illinois that regulates nurses. When IDFPR is investigating a nurse, legal representation in the process aids nurses to avoid a career-damaging decision by IDFPR. Past IDFPR decisions suggest that certain types of infringements by nurses are more likely than others to result in legal action against a license.

Following are three of the most common reasons nurses have temporarily or permanently lost their licenses to practice nursing, as well as a brief discussion of recent IDFPR cases.

Substance Abuse History – Legal Consequences for Nurses

Failing a drug screening test can result in an employed nurse’s referral to IDFPR for an enforcement action. Around 10 percent of all nurses in the US abuse alcohol and/or drugs, according to an article in 2018 in Psychology Today. This article also noted that 40 percent of nurses who were disciplined for substance abuse ingested prescription medication to control chronic pain, and 42.5 percent abused alcohol or drugs to cope with emotional distress.

According to an IDFPR report in December 2018, a positive blood test in an Illinois Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) for Propofol resulted in an IDFPR decision to place the nurse on indefinite probation – with work restrictions for a minimum of five years. This was just one of over 60 disciplinary enforcement actions against Illinois nurses included in the December 2018 IDFPR report.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) presented in a resource manual focused on substance abuse that the highest rate of substance abuse has been found in two nurse specialist subgroups: 1) hospital Emergency Room nurses, and 2) psychiatric nurses.

Failure to Pay Illinois State Income Taxes

Title 68 of Illinois’ Joint Committee on Administrative Rules includes a regulation applicable to nurses that failure to pay state taxes will result in the issuance of one (or more) of the following:

  • An Order refusing to renew the license of the nurse;
  • An Order denying the application of licensure of the nurse;
  • An Order suspending the license of the nurse

An inability to pay taxes can be caused by an unexpected financial hardship; one reason that this too frequently occurs is unforeseen medical bills. Under these trying financial circumstances, a nurse can be even more dependent upon maintaining (or acquiring) professional employment. Whatever the nurse’s reason for the initial failure to pay state income taxes, legal representation may be necessary to avoid an IDFPR decision to suspend a nurse’s license.

In December 2018, more than one nurse experienced a suspension of a professional nursing license due to failure to pay state income taxes.

Impact of Nursing License Suspension in Other States

In IDFPR’s June 2019 report, more than 20 nurses (both RNs and Licensed Practical Nurses ([LPNs]) had their licenses to practice nursing suspended or revoked. Some were as a result of a professional nursing license suspension occurring in a “sister state” – rather than initially in Illinois. Any nurse who has had a nursing license suspended or revoked in any state may be at risk of being unable to continue to practice nursing in Illinois.

If you are at risk of a nursing license suspension or other disciplinary investigation (or have experienced this in another state), consulting with a lawyer specifically trained in dealing with IDFPR enforcement actions to avoid a future risk to your professional career as a nurse.

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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