Have you received a notice that you must participate in RAMP?
Have you been charges with a drug offense and possession a nursing license in New Jersey?
Has someone from work reported that you have come to work as a nurse in New Jersey under the influence of a substance that would put patients in danger?
Submitted by New Jersey Nursing License Defense Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In this case Mr. McCafferty challenged several aspects of New Jersey’s mandatory participation in RAMP Program for Nurses, Anesthetist, and all others under the New Jersey Board of Nursing oversight. I am going to write several blogs about this case because there are several different issues at play which the Appellate Division addressed in one comprehensive opinion.
First lets discuss the limited nature of the court’s ability to review and change or overturn the “Board decision” from the New Jersey Board of Consumer Affairs. The following is the language of the appellate court in this case: ” Our review of the Board’s Final Order is limited. An agency decision should not be overturned unless there is “a showing that it was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or that it lacked fair support in the evidence[.]……… ” In re Carter, 191 N.J. 474, 482 (2007). “Deference is appropriate because of the ‘expertise and superior knowledge’ of agencies in their specialized fields and because agencies are executive actors.” In re Zahl, 186 N.J. 341, 352 (2002) (citation omitted). In reviewing agency decisions, we are to give “considerable weight to an agency’s interpretation of a statute the agency is charged with enforcing.” G.S. v. Dep’t of Human Servs., 157 N.J. 161, 170 (1999). We are not, however, bound by “an agency interpretation of a strictly legal issue when that interpretation is inaccurate or contrary to legislative objectives.” Ibid. (citation omitted) (citing N.J. Guild of Hearing Aid Dispensers v. Long, 75 N.J. 544, 562-63 (1978)).
What this means is that the appellate court will not disturb the professional board’s decision so long as it is reasonable and supported by the facts and evidence presented by the representative of the state and the licensee during the board’s decision making information gathering process. In this case the Board ordered Mr. McCafferty to participate in RAMP. The Board based it’s Order and decision on 3 co-employees who and provided information to the board. Mr. McCafferty on the other hand provided numerous (11) statements from co-employees, supervisors and others that he never appeared intoxicated or under the influence of any substance while he was working. Nevertheless, the Board relied on their statutory mandate to protect the public from employees who are ‘habitual user of drugs or alcohol’ and the facts established in the record from those employees who believed or were concerned that McCafferty was putting patients in danger.
The court goes on recognizing, “The Board maintains oversight of professional licensing for nurses” pursuant to the Nurses Practice Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 45:11-23 to -52. In re Eastwick Coll. LPN to RN Bridge Program, 225 N.J. 533, 537 (2016). To be licensed as a professional nurse an applicant must not be “a habitual user of drugs.” N.J.S.A. 45:11-26(a)(2). “To become licensed as a CRNA, an individual must meet both the general nurse licensing requirements, N.J.S.A. 45:11-26, as well as specified nurse anesthetist licensing requirements, N.J.A.C. 13:37-13.1.” N.J. State Ass’n of Nurse Anesthetists, Inc. v. N.J. State Bd. of Med. Exam’rs, 372 N.J. Super. 554 (App. Div. 2004), aff’d o.b., 183 N.J. 605 (2005). McCafferty does not question that as a professional nurse and CRNA, he may not abuse drugs or alcohol.
The Act was amended in 2005 to allow the Board to “establish an Alternative to Discipline Program for board licensees who are suffering from a chemical dependency or other impairment.” N.J.S.A. 45:11-24.10(a). Under the program, licensees can disclose their dependency to an intervention program designated by the Board, “which shall provide confidential oversight of the licensee during the period that the licensee seeks treatment for, and follows a plan for recovery from the dependency or impairment.” Ibid. Members of the public may also report licensees “who may be suffering from chemical dependencies or other impairments.” N.J.S.A. 45:11-24.10(c)(3)(a). Each referral is reviewed to determine “if participation in the program is appropriate.”