Nursing License Enforcement Mechanism

The strong enforcement mechanism of the Pennsylvania Nursing Board is found at 63 P.S. § 224. Under this provision, the Board may refuse, suspend or revoke any license in any case where the Board shall find that– (1) The licensee is on repeated occasions negligent or incompetent in the practice of professional nursing or dietetics-nutrition; (2) The licensee is unable to practice professional nursing with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of mental or physical illness or condition or physiological or psychological dependence upon alcohol, hallucinogenic or narcotic drugs or other drugs which tend to impair judgment or coordination, so long as such dependence shall continue; (3) The licensee has willfully or repeatedly violated any of the provisions of this act or of the regulations of the Board; (4) The licensee has committed fraud or deceit in all aspects of practicing nursing
Included in these enforcement powers is revoking a license if the licensee has been convicted, or has pleaded guilty, or entered a plea of nolo contendere, or has been found guilty by a judge or jury, of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude, or has received probation without verdict, disposition in lieu of trial or an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition in the disposition of felony charges, in the courts of this Commonwealth, the United States or any other state, territory, possession or country. The catch all provisions of acting in such a manner as to present an immediate and clear danger to the public health or safety and/or possessed, used, acquired or distributed a controlled substance or caution legend drug for other than an acceptable medical purpose will also get a licenses revoked.
If any of these major incidents occur, and there are others, the Board may (1) Deny the application for a license; (2) Administer a public reprimand; (3) Revoke, suspend, limit or otherwise restrict a license as determined by the Board; (4) Require a licensee to submit to the care, counseling or treatment of a physician or a psychologist designated by the Board; (5) Suspend enforcement of its finding thereof and place a licensee on probation with the right to vacate the probationary order for noncompliance; (6) Restore or reissue, in its discretion, a suspended license to practice professional or practical nursing or dietetics-nutrition and impose any disciplinary or corrective measure which it might originally have imposed. 63 P.S. § 224
A violation of any of these provisions does not have to be willful. Our Supreme Court has defined “willful” under § 14(3) as “an intentional, designed act and one without justifiable excuse.” However, no specific intent to violate the act or its rules and regulations is required to establish a willful violation. Commonwealth v. Rafferty, 508 Pa. 566, 572-574 (Pa. 1985)
The Supreme Court has stated that the pre-eminent interest of the Board is for patient care. The Board’s responsibility “[t]o assure safe standards of nursing practice through . . . the regulation of the practice of nursing in this Commonwealth.” 49 Pa. Code § 21.3(2). Commonwealth v. Rafferty, 508 Pa. 566, 572-574 (Pa. 1985). An interpretation of the term “willful” which incorporates an element of the nurse’s motivation would subordinate the interest in patient care to that of policing a nurse’s conduct.

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