In August 2013, the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing drastically changed the interpretation of the statute governing suspension of a nursing license for a violation under the Controlled Substance, Drug, and Device and Cosmetic Act.
On September 17, 2014, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the Appeals Court that handles appeals from the Nursing Board, wrote an opinion in the matter of Angela Maria Packer, R.N. vs. Bureau of Professional Occupational Affairs, Department of State, State Board of Nursing, and affirmed the Nursing Board’s ability to suspend a nurse for 10 years for a felony conviction under the Drug Act.
It is anticipated that the Packer decision will be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, if this decision is up-held, any felony conviction under the Drug Act will result in an automatic 10 year suspension of your nursing license.
Prior to August 2013, if a nurse was convicted of a felony under this Act, as long as a nurse ws enrolled in a nursing assistance program such as the Pennsylvania Nursing Assistance Program (“PNAP”), the Nursing Board would typically place the nurse on probation. In many cases, after a nurse is arrested, the nurse will enroll in PNAP while the criminal case is pending. That nurse would also enroll in the Voluntary Recovery Program (VRP).
At the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, if the nurse was convicted of a felony, the nurse would be removed from the VRP and be placed into the Disciplinary Monitoring (DMU). The difference between the two programs is that the DMU is public discipline whereas the VRP is private discipline. Private discipline does not show up on a nurse’s permanent record. Public discipline will show up on a nurse’s permanent record.
Since August 2013, as soon as the Nursing Board becomes aware of a felony conviction under the Controlled Substance Act, the Nursing Board is applying for and receiving a Notice and Order of Automatic Suspension. What then happens is the nurse is notified that his/her nursing license is automatically suspended for 10 years from the date of conviction, effective immediately.
Should you receive a Petition for Automatic Suspension accompanied by a Notice and Order of Automatic Suspension, you should contact us immediately.
In order to challenge this 10 year suspension, the nurse must file an Answer to the Petition for Automatic Suspension and request a hearing. During this interim period, the nursing license is suspended. If you fail to reply to the Petition for Automatic Suspension within 20 days, you may forever lose your right to challenge your 10 year suspension.
If you have been accused of any felony violation under the Drug Act, including diversion of narcotics, it is critical that you consult an attorney before making any admissions to your employer or an investigator for the Board of Nursing. Any admissions you make of diverting narcotics will be used against you in a criminal proceeding.
It is important that you consult with us immediately upon being accused of diversion or any violation of the Drug Act.
Even if you are charged with a felony violation under the Drug Act, we are often able to reach an agreement with the prosecutor to downgrade the felony charges to misdemeanor charges. This will allow you to retain your nursing license.
We represent healthcare professionals throughout the state of Pennsylvania. All hearings in licensing matters are held in Harrisburg. We represent individuals in these hearings, as well as in the underlying criminal case which may be held in a different county.
If you are a nurse who has been arrested for a crime, we can help you. We have helped hundreds of nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and psychologists over the past 20 years in licensing and criminal matters.