Romanowsky Law has been contacted by a number of nurses who seek to determine what their responsibilities are during the COVID-19 emergency situation. Specifically, nurses who are reluctant to work in this environment for a number of reasons have been threatened by their employers to be “reported” to the New Jersey Board of Nursing.
For its part the New Jersey Board of Nursing issued a “COVID-19 Policy Statement” it reads as follows:
Licensees of the New Jersey Board of Nursing have a proud history of providing compassionate and quality care to patients with all disease and sicknesses, including infectious diseases.
Licensees of this Board are expected to treat patients who are suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19, when the licensee possesses the skill and experience to treat the condition presented and when the licensee has been appropriately trained and adequately equipped for the proper care of such patients.
The role of the Board is to protect the public of this State. The Board will hold nurses to their professional and ethical responsibilities and to the social contract which their licenses reflect.
The “Policy” raises a number of interesting questions, the answers to which are not immediately known. While the licensees of the Board are “expected to treat patients who are suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19”, is the Board’s “expectation” something which is enforceable by the Board?
Further, note that the “expectation” of the Board exists, “…when the licensee has been appropriately trained and adequately equipped for the proper care of such patients.” Does the Board’s “expectation” then, exist where the nurse has not been appropriately trained and adequately equipped?
Finally, the Board indicates its intention to, “hold nurses to their professional and ethical responsibilities” and to the “social contract” which their licenses reflect. While it is true that nurse’s license may reflect ethical and professional responsibilities, to what extent is an ethical and professional responsibility enforceable?
For now, Romanowsky Law suggests that if you are terminating your work because you were not properly trained or adequately equipped for caring for COVID-19 infected patients, this fact should be documented by you to your employer at the time you give appropriate notice.
Romanowsky Law will be prepared to represent your interests before the Board should the Board attempt to take action with respect to your license.
Good luck and be safe.