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What can you do to protect your nursing license?

Nurses these days are expected to live up to some pretty tall standards. After all, as a nurse, you have access to sensitive information about your patients, handle high-powered narcotics and treat people who are in vulnerable conditions all the time. It's understandable, then, that nurses face a lot of scrutiny.

Unfortunately, it can only take one mistake or a single lapse in judgment to end your career, your income and your ability to practice. You can end up with your license suspended or revoked for any number of mistakes.

Aside from generally adhering to the straight-and-narrow and always behaving in an ethical and responsible manner, what else can you do to protect yourself against a medical board's occasional overreach?

You can do the following:

  1. Recognize that you are always vulnerable. A simple misunderstanding can escalate into something that could easily endanger your nursing license.
  2. Always behave in a professional manner -- even when someone else isn't. Remember, every time you have scrubs on, the public sees you as a representative of both the hospital where you work and nursing in general.
  3. Realize that someone probably has a camera pointed your way. Many medical professionals have found their licenses in danger because they were caught saying or doing something that was inappropriate or unprofessional on camera. Before you say something, ask yourself, "How would this look to someone who didn't know what was going on?"
  4. Ask questions. If you are not comfortable with a particular course of action, don't acquiesce to anyone's command. Put your patient and your license to practice above all other concerns.
  5. Be cautious about sharing too much on social media. You are never really as anonymous as you may think and anything you say about a patient has the potential to be an ethical violation.

Finally, if you do find yourself accused of an ethical violation or are the subject of a patient's complaint, don't attempt to explain things to the licensing board on your own. An attorney with experience defending professional licenses can help you assess the complaint against you and craft the appropriate response.

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