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OVERTURNED THE LICENSE REVOCATION OF AN ADVANCED PRACTICE REGISTERED NURSE (APRN)

An appellate court in Utah, in an April 19, 2015 decision, overturned the license revocation of an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who had completed, but failed to properly report, her required continuing education credits, and then declared herself eligible on license renewal forms (Cook v. Department of Commerce, Division of Financial and Professional Regulation).

Although the nurse, Monica Cook, regularly completed continuing education courses, she also regularly failed to report them. As a result, she twice lost her certification with the National Certification Corporation, a requirement for renewing a license in Utah. Cook renewed her license anyway, each time falsely certifying that she did, in fact, have the certification.

When Cook realized her mistake, she contacted the state’s Board of Nursing, relinquished her license, and offered to pay a fine. Unsatisfied, the board charged her with unprofessional conduct, and the state’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) eventually revoked her nursing license and prescribing license, fined her $5,000, and published the disciplinary action. Cook appealed, and the case eventually reached the Court of Appeals of Utah.

While the court upheld DOPL’s finding that Cook engaged in unprofessional conduct and rejected her argument that the Department abused its discretion by fining her and publishing the discipline decision, it held that the Department was wrong to have revoked her license. The court cited several factors in making this decision. First, neither the Department nor the court could find any cases where a professional license was revoked in Utah for an unintentional false statement on a renewal application. In fact, in cases where the Department had decided to revoke a license, it was usually acting on egregious conduct that posed a danger to others.

Second, and in contrast to these other cases, Cook’s actions appeared to be unintentional and did not pose a danger to others.

“DOPL opted to apply the harshest punishment available under the statute without a stay or probationary period to give Cook the opportunity to correct the situation,” wrote Judge Kate Toomey.

“Its decision to promptly revoke Cook’s licenses, when compared to the Department’s past disciplinary decisions, suggests she has engaged in especially egregious conduct, and it has prevented Cook from obtaining employment as an APRN.”

In light of the Department’s past disciplinary decisions and the nature of Cook’s unprofessional conduct, it was outside the bounds of reasonableness to revoke her licenses without staying the revocation pending recertification or first placing her on probation or suspension, the court said.

© 2015 Professional Licensing Report, published by ProForum, a non-profit research group, www.plrnet.org. Reprinted by permission.

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