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Pollman was drawn into the investigation because a manager's failure to provide adequate supervision to employees is considered to be a violation of the Nurse Practice Act -- the state law that sets the rules for nurses and the grounds for discipline when they are broken. The Colorado Board of Nursing is an eleven-member group (made up of nine nurses and two members of the public) charged by the state with licensing registered nurses, practical nurses and psychiatric technicians, certifying nurses' aides, and disciplining those who violate the Nurse Practice Act.

"[The Board of Nursing] seemed to feel I was responsible in some way because I didn't educate the staff correctly about the procedures, but I have documents showing that I held regular inservices. I routinely updated the staff at meetings on what the policies were," Pollman says. Many nurses in Colorado are now trying to change the Nurse Practice Act because they say parts of it -- including the part under which Pollman was charged -- are so ambiguous that nurses don't even know when they are in violation of the law.

In January 1999, more than a year after receiving the case, the attorney general's office presented Pollman with three choices: She could fight the board's assertion that she'd violated the Nurse Practice Act; she could agree that she'd violated the act and agree to give up her license ("Which I thought I already had done when I left Colorado and didn't renew it," Pollman says); or she could deny the allegations, voluntarily give up her license and agree never to practice in Colorado again.

"By then it had been four years since the suicide, and I wanted to forget about it," she says. "I knew I didn't have a chance in hell of getting anything decided my way in a hearing and that if I got my license revoked, it would look worse on my record than voluntarily giving it up. I wasn't planning to return to Colorado anyway, and I would have been on my own with no lawyer fees covered by the hospital if I had picked choice number one."

Pollman took option number three.

The nursing board then assured her, she says, that the status of her nursing license, which is available to the public, would show that it had been voluntarily relinquished. Ironically, at around the same time, Pollman received a letter from Porter Hospital saying that its internal investigation had cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Finally, Pollman thought, it was over.

She thought wrong.

In March 1999, Pollman got laid off when the company she worked for started cutting costs. The same friend who had told her about the job in California suggested she seek a management position at Staff Builders Home Health Care, a psychiatric home-health agency in Phoenix. Pollman started there in May 1999. "I told my administrator the whole story about what happened in Colorado, and she had no problem hiring me. The first day on the job, my task was to go to the Arizona Board of Nursing office and apply for my license. The second question on the form asks if you've ever had a disciplinary action from another state. I anticipated that and attached the letter from the Colorado Board of Nursing and the letter from Porter Hospital," she says. "I was told that because I'd answered yes, they couldn't grant me a temporary license. Then I got a call telling me that the Arizona Board of Nursing would have to conduct their own investigation of what happened in Colorado before they'd give me a license. Here I'd moved out to Arizona from Kansas, and I was in limbo because of Colorado!"

Pollman's boss allowed her to work as a consultant, but not to care for patients until her name was cleared. The Arizona Board of Nursing told Pollman that its investigation could take up to three months and that all of her personnel files dating back to 1995 would be subpoenaed. Pollman was allowed to give the board the names of witnesses with whom she'd worked at Porter Hospital, as well as a written statement detailing her recollection of events. The board's investigator also wanted to know how Kansas would have ruled on her case.

As it turned out, Kansas had decided not to renew her license. "The Kansas Board of Nursing never notified me of that, and they didn't ask me any questions or investigate beyond looking at the stipulation letter. They read the stipulation to mean that it had the full force of a revocation, and Kansas law states that a nurse's license can't be renewed if it's been revoked in another state," she says.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon