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Nursing licenses and loans: Is disciplinary action possible?

Nurses are part of a skilled workforce. This workforce provides valuable medical care to patients at hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes and other health care facilities. Those who choose to enter this profession must pass a nursing program—a program that can come with great expense.

In order to fund their training, many nurses take out federal student loans. These loans can become very costly, and paying them back can be difficult. As a result, some in the profession are struggling to pay off these debts.

Some lawmakers are pushing for state licensing boards to move forward with disciplinary action against nurses who fail to repay these loans. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) recently released a publication calling attention to this push to discipline nurses who fail to pay back student loans. Current model rules for the profession state defaulting on loans is grounds for punishment … but a committee put together by the NCSBN has called on the group to change this rule.

Will the rule change? The push extends beyond the NCSBN. There is also a push by lawmakers to remove this type of disciplinary action. Both Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced a law that would prevent states from “suspending, revoking, or denying state licenses, in the event that a licensee defaults on his or her federal student loans.” The law, the Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act, would also allow nurses civil remedies against states that attempt to remove their license due to a defaulted loan.

It is too early to tell if the proposal will pass. We will provide future updates on the progress of the NCSBN’s action as well as this proposal. Until a change is put into place, nurses in the state who struggle to pay off their loans may find themselves facing disciplinary action. If this happens, it is wise to seek legal counsel to better ensure your rights are protected.