The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
2790 W. College Ave., Suite 800
State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
(814) 237-6255

Nurse Anesthetist Student terminated for refusing Drug Test in PA

A nurse anesthetist student at Bloomsburg University (Bloomsburg) was terminated from the Nurse Anesthetist Program (NAP) for refusing a drug test.  The NAP was a partnership between Bloomsburg, a public university and member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and Geisinger Medical Center (Geisinger), a private hospital.  Bloomsburg provided classroom instruction for the NAP program and Geisinger handled the clinical component.  After dismissal from the NAP program, the nursing student, Angela Borrell, filed a §1983 action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Bloomsburg and Geisinger claiming that she was deprived of her due process rights because she was dismissed from the program without a pre-deprivation hearing.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Borrell and awarded her $250,000.00 in compensatory damages and $750,000.00 in punitive damages.  The case took an 180˚turn when the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the District Court’s decision and entered judgment for the defendants.  The ruling, found a distinction in whether the director of the NAP program, a Geisinger employee, was wearing his Geisinger hat or his Bloomsburg hat when he terminated Borrell.  This is important distinction because Geisinger is a private hospital and its policies permitted termination for failure to submit to a drug test without offering any right to be heard.  Unlike the District Court, the Third Circuit found that the NAP director was not acting under the color of state law in that he had unilateral authority to terminate Borrell based on Geisinger’s employment policies.  Consequently, the protections afforded by Constitution regarding due process did not apply.

The legal authority created by this case raises a number of questions and scenarios that students working to obtain professional licensure encounter.  The decision to not take a drug test created collateral consequences that Borrell was probably not prepared to face.

If you or someone you know is working to obtain a professional license or certification in Pennsylvania and encounters questions or problems, they should consult a lawyer to find out how their rights may be affected.  A lawyer at The Mazza Law Group can help.

Attention: Pennsylvania Registered Nurse

As of October 17, 2015, a Pennsylvania Registered Nurse is now required to report pending criminal charges within 30 days of the filing of criminal charges. In addition, if you have received disciplinary action in another state you are required to report the final disposition to the Board within 90 days.  Pursuant to Title 49 of the Pennsylvania Code, chapter 21:

  •  21.29a. Reporting of crimes and disciplinary action.

(a) A registered nurse shall notify the Board of pending criminal charges within 30 days of the filing of the criminal charges or on the biennial renewal application under § 21.29(c)(4) (relating to expiration and renewal of license), whichever is sooner.

(b) A registered nurse shall notify the Board of a criminal conviction, plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or an admission into a probation without verdict or accelerated rehabilitative disposition program within 30 days of the disposition or on the biennial renewal application under § 21.29(c)(4), whichever is sooner.

(c) A registered nurse shall notify the Board of disciplinary action in the nature of a final order taken against the registered nurse by the licensing authority of another state, territory or country within 90 days of receiving notice of the disciplinary action, or on the biennial renewal application under § 21.29(c)(4), whichever is sooner.

Reporting pending charges can be made online at: https://www.mylicense.state.pa.us/BPOAFormBuilder/Login_licensee.aspx

If you are a registered nurse in Pennsylvania and you are under investigation or have been charged with a crime you should consult with an attorney to know your rights.  An experienced attorney at the Mazza Law Group will guide you through the process of both the criminal justice system and the professional licensing disciplinary procedure .  Contact us today!