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Is my nursing license at risk if I am struggling with debt?

Whether due to the pandemic or other life circumstances, those who struggle to pay their bills face enormous stress. In some cases professionals like nurses may also worry that these mounting bills could have a negative impact on their professional license. The fear of having your license threatened on top of struggling to meet these financial obligations can make an already stressful situation seem unmanageable.

This post will answer this question and provide some information to help you get a better handle on the status of your license in this situation.

First, the type of debt matters. In the past, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) considered defaulting on a health education loan or scholarship obligation as grounds for discipline. That is generally no longer the case. Upon review when updating these rules in August of 2021, the NCSBN removed this Ground for Discipline from its Model Rules.

This is not the only movement that is pushing for change when it comes to punishing nurses by taking away their professional license if they fall behind on their bills. In 2021, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (JOBs) Act. One of the goals of this law is to prevent states from suspending, revoking, or denying state licenses, like a nursing license, from a licensee who defaults on his or her federal student loans.

The NCSBN has clearly stated its support of the JOBs Act, noting that there is no evidence to support that a failure to keep up with loan payments hinders a nurse’s ability to provide care to their patients. As a result, the organization states having state nursing boards punish a nurse for this type of infraction is not appropriate.

Debt can pose a problem if it is tied to an unethical, unlawful, or dishonest act. In these situations the act may fall within grounds for discipline and could lead to a suspension or revocation of your nursing license.

Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication