story and photo by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Several hundred people, a prosecuting attorney and a board that has the legal right to take away your license to practice.
That’s what’s waiting for nurses called in front of the Oklahoma Board of Nursing.
Joe Martin, RN, JD, knows most nurses aren’t prepared for what they’ll be walking into on hearing day.
But he wants them to know they don’t have to do it alone.
“Sometimes a well-crafted response to an initial inquiry can save the nurse much time and heartache if they would just allow an attorney to represent them,” Martin said.
But that often comes with a hefty price tag, forcing most nurses to represent themselves.
Robert J. Haupt, attorney and founder of Oklahoma City-based National Litigation Law Group, recruited Martin and his combined 15 years of nursing experience and his juris doctorate to come up with a plan that puts an entire law firm behind nurses.
And it costs less than $10 a month.
“Nurses tend to underestimate the risk,” said Martin, managing attorney at National Litigation Law Group. “A nurse who has worked 15 or 16 years – like myself – will say ‘I’ve been doing this for this long why do I need your service now?’”
Reports from two prominent nursing organizations show that a majority of liability issues fall with nurses who have 16 years or more of experience.
THE NLLG ADVANTAGE
NLLG offers a $9.95 monthly subscription plan for nurses. The plan supplies attorney representation for any board inquiry or notice.
Legal advice, written responses to inquiries and even representation at the hearing itself are all included.
“We’re going to be there to help them identify witnesses and evidence that are potentially there as well,” Martin said.
Martin can also help nurses obtain the evidence that will be used against them prior to the actual hearing date.
“Our whole premise of this entire program is we wanted to provide affordable, legal, professional representation for nurses,” Martin said. “Nurses aren’t prepared for every single scenario you will come up against. There are a lot of nurses that probably every single day say to themselves ‘My God, thank you … somebody didn’t die today.’”
Martin says last year alone 746 nurses were investigated and/or sanctioned in Oklahoma.
His nursing career has taken him through emergency room, medical-surgical, ICU, cardiac, Trauma and VIP settings.
Martin began his nursing career at the age of 21 after graduating from Carl Albert State College in Poteau and Northeastern State University.
Talking to a friend who was a nurse and going through law school inspired Martin to pursue the legal field himself.
He graduated from Oklahoma City University law school in 2008.
The legal field was just a good fit.
“I know everybody who goes to law school says this but I am a bit argumentative,” Martin said with a laugh. “I like to prove my point. No. 2, I liked the aspect of helping people.”
With RN Guard, Martin is able to merge his passions.
Martin’s early law career involved malpractice defense. He defended nurses, doctors and hospitals.
“Nursing boards have a job to do. It’s a difficult job for them to do,” Martin said. “At the same time it’s intimidating for a nurse to have to go before them unrepresented. That’s the whole reason behind RN Guard – so each nurse would have the capability of representation without breaking their bank.”
“(Nurses) may think (a hearing) is along the lines of sitting around a table and discuss and figure something out. It’s not that way. It’s more adversarial and it’s meant to be that way because the board has a job to do protecting the public.”
NLLG currently offers the plan for RNs, LPNs and APRNs and provides coverage in all 50 States and in most US Territories.
“As a nurse, I recognize the risk,” Martin said.
“I think nursing schools do a really good job of preparing nurses but what nurses don’t realize are the outliers. In the nursing profession there are times where the books do not prepare you for what is before you and you have to make quick judgment calls on the fly, in what I would consider a battlefield. In hindsight, sometimes the board has questions about those decisions that you make.”
And Martin wants to make sure you never have to answer them alone.