Consent Orders, or Consent Agreements, are part of certain disciplinary processes for nurses. Nursing boards may offer them as settlement options in investigations of complaints or breaches of the Nurse Practice Act. If you agree to a Consent Order and stick to its conditions, you'll avoid a formal hearing, but you'll still have to deal with some consequences.
The Consent Order in the Disciplinary Process
The RN disciplinary process works in various ways, depending on your state's nursing board. Typically, it starts with an investigation into the facts of the case. If the investigation finds that you are, or may be, at fault, it then moves on to informal or formal procedures. At this stage, the board may offer you a Consent Order rather than taking the case to a hearing. This agreement comes with one or more conditions designed to fix the disciplinary problem. You may have to admit misconduct, but you do not always have to do so. In either case, once you sign the agreement and it has board approval, you’re obliged to meet its conditions.
How Consent Orders Work
In some cases, you may continue to work as an RN under the conditions of the agreement. You may have a probationary license during this time, working to the requirements of the Consent Order. In other cases, you may voluntarily suspend your license or accept its suspension. This means that you won't be able to work as a nurse until you have fulfilled the agreed conditions. Once the agreement is finished, you usually have to apply for a review of the Consent Order and your conduct or actions. The board has to agree to end the agreement, but this does not just happen automatically.
Examples of Consent Order Conditions
Consent Orders may levy civil penalty fines and/or list actions you must take to rectify the disciplinary action. Boards can bring action against nurses for both minor and major complaints. These are not restricted to your work as an RN; they may include issues in your personal life, such as not paying off student loans or debts. If your problem relates to clinical practice, you may have to agree not to work in certain jobs, to work under supervision, not to administer medications, or to take further education courses. If you have a personal problem, such as drug or alcohol issues, then you may have to agree to an evaluation, to enter a program, or to allow random drug testing.
Implications of Consent Orders
You should make sure you understand the conditions of a Consent Order before you sign it, and it may be worth talking to a lawyer before you do so. You cannot change the agreement after the fact, and you must meet all conditions before it ends. These agreements can affect your nursing career, even if you move out of state. Nursing boards have access to a centralized licensing and disciplinary reporting system, Nursys, and your Consent Order will show up if you apply for a license in another state. It will also permanently remain on your professional record.
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.