Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger: Do Not Let Allegations Around Boundary Violations Derail Your Nursing Career

Given nurses’ backbreaking workload and extensive one-on-one contact with patients, allegations of misconduct stemming from “boundary violations” are not a surprise. These allegations can ruin a career, as they not only suggest that the nurse has had some form of inappropriate relationship with a patient, but that he or she can also not be trusted. If you are a Kansas or Missouri nurse and allegations of boundary violations have arisen against you, call attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced and aggressive attorney for nurses facing occupational discipline. 

“Stepping over the line” with a patient is all too easy to do. Whether it is showing them inappropriate affection, accepting or giving gifts, or exchanging personal information, boundary violations imply that you are improperly taking advantage of your personal relationship with a patient.

Patient Boundaries

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing describes “boundaries” as a space between the nurse’s power and the patient’s helplessness. A boundary violation can arise in one of three ways:

• Boundary crossing: This may include accepting gifts from a patient, sharing personal information or allowing the patient to develop a dependence or comradery beyond what is therapeutically necessary. These behaviors may seem innocent but can easily lead to misunderstandings or more serious breaches.

• Boundary abuse: Commonly, nurses step over the line through privacy violations. NCSBN adds that if you engage in any behavior with a patient that has no therapeutic value, you may be violating the boundary.

• Misconduct: Inappropriate relations with a patient do not have to be sexual to be forbidden. While physical contact of a personal nature with a patient, including kissing, is a violation of conduct, even discussing having a relationship or using suggestive language while a patient is in your care violates the boundary. This rule extends to family members of the patient.

Allegations that you have engaged in behavior that constitutes any of these boundary violations may result in the suspension or revocation of your nursing license. 

What Happens After an Allegation of a Boundary Violation?

As a licensing attorney, I always try to achieve the best possible outcome for my client. There are always two roads to that outcome, negotiating some sort of deal or going to a hearing. Obviously, a negotiated penalty is attractive because it is a low-risk choice with a known outcome. On the other hand, a hearing is a high-risk choice with a possibility of prevailing with no discipline or losing and facing an unknown penalty.

Preparing for a hearing and challenging the evidence being used against you is the vital to both prevailing ultimately at a hearing and to getting the best possible offer of a lesser penalty. Excluding hearsay—rumors and other unsubstantiated statements—against you, challenging the validity of evidence, and making an administrative board second-guess the strength of the case against you will result in their settlement offer becoming increasingly favorable to you. 

In my experience, administrative hearing boards and their experienced attorneys make “low ball” settlement offers to unrepresented nurses early on in cases. Without the advice of counsel, these offers may seem like generous ways to avoid the extreme penalties that could be imposed after a hearing.  However, what licensing attorneys know is that the case against you always has flaws, and that “low ball” offer is simply a first attempt to get you to give up on a hearing where those flaws may be exposed. Those offers are to be avoided, especially when they include permanent discipline, prohibitions on working for periods of time, or other onerous conditions. 

After hiring a licensing attorney with experience before the board seeking to discipline you, the offers to settle usually get much more attractive. An aggressive challenge to the evidence against you and a willingness to go to a hearing often results in a dismissal of charges of misconduct. But that sort of outcome is not going to come about without an experienced advocate by your side.

I sometimes urge clients to accept reasonable offers when the risk of a serious penalty after a hearing is simply too great to accept. Sometimes clients accept deals because their fear of an unknown outcome drives their decision-making. That said, the decision to settle a case instead of going to a hearing is ultimately yours. 

Contact an Experienced Kansas and Missouri Licensing Attorney Now

There is no time to waste if you are accused of a boundary violation. Too many nurses try to talk their way out of these allegations, try to represent themselves before licensing boards, or accept “low ball” initial offers with long-lasting consequences. You should not respond to an investigation until you have attained representation by a skilled licensing attorney. Having a zealous advocate by your side challenging the validity of the evidence against you and cross-examining those who testify against you is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

If you are a nurse in Kansas or Missouri and are facing an allegation of a boundary violation, call Danielle Sanger today.

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger is prepared to advocate for your best interests and defend your livelihood and career. Call Attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced and aggressive attorney for nurses facing occupational discipline.