Do you play by the rules? Meet the Nurse Attorney

Edie Brous graduated from nursing school in 1976 and started her career as an operating room nurse.  She later worked in the ER & ICU.  After working as a traveling nurse in those specialties, she obtained a Master’s degree in Critical Care Nursing and Public Health and moved into nursing management.  In her down time she went to law school.

 

Edie graduated from law school in 1999 and worked in medical malpractice litigation (defense firm), multidistrict litigation in pharmaceutical defense, before returning to medical malpractice litigation.  In 2005 she opened her own practice representing professionals in licensure defense.

What motivated you to become a nurse attorney?

My mother died of medical and nursing malpractice.  I knew my way around the health care system, but not the legal system.

What do you love most about nursing?

It is one of the most challenging and rewarding professions possible and it put me in a privileged position of being with people during their hardest times.  It was always changing, requiring updated skills and knowledge. No two days were ever alike.

 In your experience, what are some common mistakes nurses make that compromise their license.

1.   They don’t know the rules.  Most nurses have not read their state’s Nurse Practice Act and do not go to their state board’s web site to keep up with advisory opinions, practice alerts, or rule changes. They get into trouble because they didn’t know they were in violation or engaging in professional misconduct.

2.   They do not have their own insurance.  Nurses have been given a great deal of misinformation or incomplete information about liability insurance and choose, on the basis of that misinformation, to “go bare” or practice depending solely upon their employer’s coverage.  They don’t realize how many gaps there are in that coverage (to the extent that it exists at all) until they need to pay legal fees and wish they had their own (very inexpensive) policy.

3.   They do not understand the role of the nursing board, or the adversarial nature of investigations.  Most importantly, they do not realize that licensure discipline can have collateral effects that may be even more damaging to their careers than the licensure discipline itself, or that licensure discipline in one state can create problems for them in another state, even if they did not renew their license in that second state.

4.   They misuse social media.  Posting something into cyberspace leaves a permanent footprint and irrefutable evidence that can lead to licensure discipline.

 What throws you off balance and how do you know you are out of balance?

As much as I’d like to say I have a golden personality and never get out of balance, I do have a limited tolerance for bureaucratic insanity and punitive regulatory models.  I know it is getting to me when I become irritable.

 What brings you back into balance?

Talking to other nurse attorneys who experience the same frustration, taking comfort from the clients I have been able to help, and speaking publicly to nurses to reduce their risks.

 

Can you share a case that impacted you significantly (positively or negatively)

It took multiple hearings and several years, but I was able to get a nursing license restored that had been revoked.  The client was very motivated to stay in nursing and we were able to convince the nursing board to allow her back into the profession she loved.

 

Tell me about your most favorite nursing (or nurse attorney) job and why.

The one I have now.  I really enjoyed the litigation firms I worked for and learned a great deal working with some truly excellent attorneys, but I like being my own boss and having the scheduling flexibility to speak at conferences & seminars.

 

What advice would you give to potential nurse attorneys out there?

Get connected to other nurse attorneys.  Other lawyers understand the legal world and other nurses understand the nursing world, but only other nurse attorneys know what it’s like to wear both hats.  The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA) allows us to network with each other and truly be with our “peeps.”