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Ohio Board Of Nursing Ramps Up Enforcement Against Aggressive Behavior Towards Patients

Published: Feb 07, 2017 by James McGovern

During the past few months, the nursing license defense attorneys at Graff & McGovern have observed numerous new investigations and disciplinary cases brought by the Ohio Board of Nursing against nurses alleged to have displayed aggressive behavior towards their patients. These are very difficult cases for the Ohio Board of Nursing and for the nurses who find their licenses at risk of discipline, which could include permanent revocation, suspension, probation and/or practice restrictions.

Theses cases usually involve the following laws and rules: 1) Ohio Revised Code 4723.28 (B)(19), regarding practicing below accepted standards of safe nursing; 2) Ohio Revised Code 4723.28 (B)(16), regarding violating a Board of Nursing rule; and 3) Ohio Administrative Code 4623-4-06 (K), regarding engaging in behavior that causes or may cause physical, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse to a patient and/or engaging in behavior toward a patient that may reasonably be interpreted as physical, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse.

In most of these recent cases, the nurse claimed that while he or she may have exhibited aggressive behavior towards a patient, the aggressive behavior was aimed at addressing and/or defending against unprovoked aggressive behavior by the patient towards the nurse (such as punching, kicking, grabbing, spitting and/or using threatening language). In those cases where the nurse claimed to be acting to address and/or defend against the aggressive behavior initiated by the patient, the Board of Nursing still alleged and/or found fault in the nurse for his or her conduct. That was even the case for a nurse who was severely beaten during an unprovoked attack by a patient and then, after being rescued by co-workers and security, swung back at the patient who had just beat her senseless.

The take away for nurses should be to do everything in their power to walk away from a potentially hostile situation before things escalate, count to ten in order to cool down, call for assistance or take other steps needed to avoid being in a position where the nurse ends up being investigated and/or sanctioned for displaying aggressive behavior towards a patient. To better understand applicable standards of care and to be better equipped, nurses should also consider completing continuing education courses related to dealing with hostile / difficult patient. Some courses recommended by the Ohio Board of Nursing include: 1) Managing Assaultive Behavior for Healthcare Professional (3 hours); and 2) Staying Cool Under Fire (1 hour).

If you or a nurse you know has already been involved in an incident that could lead to the Ohio Board of Nursing investigating the nurse for displaying aggressive behavior towards a patient, then the nurse should promptly discuss the incident with an experienced nursing license defense attorney. That discussion should occur before the nurse makes any statement (oral or written) regarding the incident to the nurse’s employer, the Ohio Board of Nursing or any other entity investigating the incident. Otherwise, the nurse is at risk of being coerced or otherwise led to make statements that could: 1) prove to be against his or her interest; and/or 2) demonstrate (in the eyes of the Ohio Board of Nursing) a lack of understanding regarding applicable standards of care. Even if a statement has been provided by the nurse regarding the incident, the nurse should still promptly contact an experienced nursing board lawyer for assistance in defending his / her interests.

If you have questions about the Ohio Board of Nursing, your nursing license and/or your nursing employment, please contact James McGovern at 614-228-5800, x2, or any of the other license defense attorneys at Graff & McGovern for a no charge initial consultation.