License to Disclose:  A Primer on License Renewal for Nurses (and other Health Care Professionals)

By:  Tyler S. Lemen

License renewal season for nurses is once again upon us.  Because it is an even-numbered year, all Licensed Practical Nurses should complete their license renewal before current licenses expire on October 31, 2018.[1]  To renew, you complete a renewal form (either online or by mail) and pay the appropriate renewal fee.  Although a pretty simple and straightforward process, many licensed professionals get into trouble by failing to answer a renewal question correctly.  If you answer “No” to a question in which you should have answered “Yes,” you have technically violated Ind. Code §25-1-9-4(a)(1)(A) (even if you did this by mistake), which provides that a practitioner may not engage in or knowingly cooperate in a fraud or material deception in order to obtain a license to practice. Therefore, it is very important that you carefully read and respond fully and appropriately to the questions on your renewal application.  Because this statute applies to all licensed professionals, this is true not just for LPNs, but for all licensed health care professionals (and something to keep in mind when it is your time to renew).[2]

The questions on your renewal application look back at the time since you last renewed (the last two years if you are a nurse).  The first two questions ask about your professional license and whether you have been subject to any formal discipline or charges by any licensing agency, in any state, or have had a license (or previous renewal) denied.   If you have had a formal Complaint filed against your license since your last renewal, you must answer “Yes,” even if the charges are pending before the Nursing Board, something of which they would already be aware.

Question three covers criminal matters not confined to your professional license.  If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of any offense, misdemeanor or felony–excluding traffic offenses–you must answer “Yes.”

Question four asks about civil malpractice actions.  If you personally have been named in a malpractice action which was settled, or if a judgment was entered against you, you should answer “Yes” to this question.  However, this question only applies if you were a named defendant in the action.

Question five is particularly tricky.  The Board wants to know if you were disciplined, reprimanded, demoted, or terminated at work since you last renewed.  This question is easily overlooked because it does not seem as severe as other possible licensing issues.  However, if you were reprimanded (included being written up), disciplined, or terminated in the scope of your practice as a nurse (including being suspended), you should answer “Yes” to this question.

Finally, question six asks if you have been excluded from participation in the Medicare or Medicaid programs.  This is not very common for a nurse—if you have been excluded, you likely would have received a letter of notification, but a quick search of this database will confirm your status.

If you answer “Yes” to any of the renewal questions, you must provide a detailed statement to the Board explaining your affirmative response.  This is a very important (and necessary) step in making an affirmative response on your renewal application.  Although you might be hesitant to answer “Yes” to any of these questions for fear your renewal application will be rejected, or it will draw unwanted attention to your situation and trigger an appearance in front of the Board, it is better to err on the side of caution and disclose something (and explain the circumstances surrounding your affirmative response in your statement and in front of the Board if called for a personal appearance) than to be charged with renewal fraud later down the road.  Keep in mind that answering falsely is viewed as a “double whammy:” not only did you have a reportable incident in the last renewal period, but you also lied on your application.

If you need assistance completing your renewal application, preparing your affirmative response statement, or appearing in front of the licensing board, please contact the health care practice group at DSV.

[1] Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Nurses must renew their licenses by October 31 of odd-numbered years.

[2] In fact, Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants licenses must be renewed by December 31 of this year.