Case Result: Nurse Investigated for Impairment is Dismissed After 5 Years

Professional:
Registered Nurse (RN)

Primary issue:
A Florida nurse was struggling with depression and anxiety. The nurse made the mistake of confiding in their coworkers and supervisors while at work. As maybe expected, gossip spread, and concerns about their safety to practice grew. As consequence of the fast-spreading rumors, the RN was reported to Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN). IPN is the impaired practitioner program for nurses in the state of Florida; they assesses nurses for impairment and then monitor impaired nurses. Once referred, a nurse may be asked to attend a treatment program at their own expense and refrain from working until deemed “safe to practice.” Participation in monitoring means that the nurse will be required to disclose their impairment status to any employer. The nurse objected to the referral, arguing that they had no issues at work and that nobody ever complained about their performance. Despite this, IPN became involved and the nurse had to decide whether to comply with the IPN referral or not. Ultimately, the nurse refused to enroll in IPN and the case was referred to FL DOH for further investigation as to whether the nurse is “safe to practice with reasonable skill and safety.” 

Argument:
As part of their defense, the nurse obtained an evaluation with a well-respected psychiatrist, specialized in forensic psychiatry. The expert was carefully selected to avoid bias and to ensure a fair assessment. It was this expert’s opinion that the nurse was not impaired. Despite this, FL DOH prosecutors refused to dismiss the case arguing that because the expert selected is not an “IPN-approved” evaluator that their opinion of the nurse is invalid. Our Florida healthcare defense lawyers adamantly argued against FL DOH’s appointing out that there is no law that requires an evaluation be completed by an “IPN approved” evaluator. The question in this case was whether the nurse’s condition was one that would render her unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety. Just because somebody is depressed, it does not mean they are a danger to patients. It was up to the FLDOH prosecutors to decide whether to file formal charges and be prepared to argue against CLG. We waited and the years went by with the prosecution seemingly holding this case hostage, refusing to dismiss but also to charge. We used it to our advantage. CLG knew that the longer FLDOH waited to force their point, the more likely it was that they didn’t have a good legal argument. CLG continued to build mitigation and after 5-years, filed a Demand for Dismissal letter arguing that FLDOH failed to prosecute. 

Result:
The case, was presented to the probable cause panel and it was dismissed without a finding. This means that the nurse’s license is free from any record of investigation, their license is clear and active, and they are free to practice without conditions or encumbrances.   

If You Are Facing A Similar Issue:
If you are a licensed healthcare professional accused of drug diversion, you should immediately retain counsel. Drug diversion is a crime and can lead to criminal prosecution. But even without the threat of criminal prosecution, your license is in jeopardy. Counsel can assist you with OCE preparation but also help you negotiate dismissal despite recommendations of an evaluator.  

Areas of Law:
Department of Health Investigations
Nursing License Defense Law

Attorney:
Sara A. Bazzigaluppi

Disclaimer:
This information is a sample of our past results. Prospective clients may not obtain the same or similar results. Every case is different, and each case must be evaluated and handled on its own merits. The circumstances of your case may differ from the results provided. The information provided has not been reviewed or approved by the State Bar.

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