Board of Nursing’s Licensing Power
The legislature empowered the Board of Nursing to adopt rules consistent with the Nursing Practice Act (Chapter 301, Tex. Occ. Code) necessary to regulate the practice of nursing and vocational nursing, establish standards of professional conduct for license holders under the Nursing Practice Act, and to determine what constitutes the practice of professional or vocational nursing. The Nursing Practice Act also grants the Board of Nursing power to license individuals as advanced practice registered nurses (a term defined to be synonymous with “advanced practice nurse” and “advanced nurse practitioner” under the NPA).
The Texas Board of Nursing – Organization
The Texas Board of Nursing has 13 members that are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. The board is made up of six nurse members (one advanced practice nurse (“APN”), two registered nurses (“RN”) who are not APNs), three vocational nurses (“VN”) who are not members of a nurse faculty), three members who are nurse faculty members at schools of nursing, and four members who represent the public. The governor designates one of these thirteen members as the presiding officer, and that person continues to serve at the pleasure of the governor. The Board then selects an executive director, who performs the duties that the Board directs and manages the agency as its executive officer.
Complaints, Investigations, and Informal Settlement
If the Board of Nursing investigates a complaint, it typically begins by requesting information from the licensee. The request will seek information regarding the alleged conduct that constitutes a violation fo either the Nursing Practice Act or Board of Nursing’s administrative rules. The enforcement division sends these letters and they are time-sensitive in nature, providing only twenty (20) days for a response from the licensee. While this deadline may be extended under certain circumstances, it is important not to count on an extension and to pay close attention to all applicable deadlines outlined in the letter. Additionally, it is a good idea at the outset for the licensee to go ahead and engage an attorney to help navigate the next steps in this process.
After the licensee provides a response to the letter, the enforcement division reviews the case file. At that point, the enforcement division will determine whether the imposition of disciplinary measures is appropriate. The licensee may receive a proposed agreed order, but that proposed order may not be a result that the licensee wishes to accept. If that is the case, the licensee must request the initiation of an informal settlement conference before the more formal proceedings at the State Office of Administrative Hearings is initiated. The informal settlement conference, unlike some other state agencies, is discretionary at the Board of Nursing. Accordingly, a failure to accept the agreed order from enforcement may result in the matter proceeding directly to a formal hearing at SOAH.
Proceedings at the State Office of Administrative Hearings
The State Office of Administrative Hearings is an administrative agency that employs licensed attorneys to act as administrative law judges in quasi-judicial proceedings. This includes the adjudication of allegations of misconduct by the Board of Nursing and many other Texas state agencies. These proceedings are public, and the documents filed in those proceedings are readily available on the internet through a simple search function. Accordingly, complaints that make it to the SOAH stage are easy to find and may be accessed by anyone, including potential future employers.
SOAH looks and feels like a traditional court proceeding, but it is not. SOAH judges hear evidence, rule on motions, and conduct many similar functions to a judge in the judicial branch of government, but SOAH is a part of the executive branch of government and does not, under most circumstances, issue a final order on a case. Instead, the SOAH judge issues a “proposal for decision” after the conclusion of a case and the Board of Nursing may either adopt, reject, or modify that proposal.
Criminal Conviction Guidelines
Under its statutory authority, the Board of Nursing has adopted rules and guidelines governing criminal convictions and deferred adjudication of criminal charges. Those guidelines may be found at by searching the Texas Register and specific penalties are available on the Board of Nursing’s website for certain offenses. The interaction of specific criminal convictions identified by the Board of Nursing with a practitioner’s license can be quite severe depending on the charge. Thus, coordination between criminal defense counsel and a professional license defense attorney is essential to ensure that the effect of a conviction or deferred adjudication on a practitioner’s license is evaluated before entering a plea agreement.
If you have received notice of action from the Board of Nursing, DO NOT WAIT.
Time is one of the most important factors in being able to respond and present a defense in any legal matter. If you have received a notice of disciplinary action from the Board of Nursing, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Call our office at (512) 915-3344 to discuss your options and to learn more about our experience defending professional licenses.