APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 755-951, DIVISION
"M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, JOANETTA SPEARS Ray A.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, LOUISIANA BOARD OF PRACTICAL
NURSE EXAMINERS John W. Becknell, III
composed of Susan M. Chehardy, Fredericka Homberg Wicker, and
Stephen J. Windhorst
STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE
December 3, 2015, plaintiff, Joanetta Spears, filed a
petition for judicial review of a November 6, 2015
administrative agency decision rendered pursuant to La. R.S.
49:964 by defendant, Louisiana Board of Practical Nurse
Examiners (the Board), revoking Mr. Spears' practical
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
12, 2015, after receiving a report from Ochsner Medical
Center-West Bank, the Board filed a Formal Complaint against
Ms. Spears, a Licensed Practical Nurse (L.P.N.), alleging
violations of La. R.S. 37:969A, sections (4)(c), (d), (f) and
(g) and La. Admin. Code 46:306T, sections (3), (4) and
(8)(a), (b), (c), (g), (j), (p), (q) and (t).
Board conducted a formal hearing on June 19, 2015, before
Hearing Officer Myra L. Collins, L.P.N. Also present were
Executive Director, M. Lynn Ansardi, R.N., and members of the
Compliance Department, Kiana Gautreaux and Julie Pranger,
R.N. Ms. Spears represented herself and the Board was
represented by Jerry W. Sullivan, Esq. Ms. Spears testified
at the hearing, as did Ruth Polk, R.N., Amanda Smith, R.N.,
B.S.N., Georgia Gaffney, R.N., Kristy Caleyo R.N., B.S.N.,
and Kimberly Lager of Global Safety Network, who performed
drug and alcohol testing both in the field and in the office.
following facts were adduced at the Board hearing.
Spears was issued a license for practical nursing in the
state of Louisiana on April 24, 2003. She was terminated from
employment with Ochsner on January 14, 2015. Her license was
summarily suspended, immediately after a positive
breathalyzer test, and she was terminated from employment
shortly thereafter. Ms. Spears was notified that she was
terminated not only because of the positive breathalyzer
test, but also because of behaviors addressed in her
performance improvement plan and excessive absenteeism.
to the testimony of Ruth Polk, R.N., Ms. Polk had worked the
night shift on December 26-27, 2014. At the change of shift,
Ms. Polk was waiting while another nurse was giving a report
to Ms. Spears, who was just starting her shift. Ms. Polk
stated that within a minute of starting the report, Ms.
Spears "nodded off, bobbing her head downward first and
then her head went back." Ms. Polk noted that Ms. Spears
had a "body odor" and that she was
"diaphoretic" (sweaty) and non-responsive. Ms. Polk
stated that she did not smell alcohol. As it appeared that
Ms. Spears was having a seizure, a Code Blue was initiated.
Smith, R.N., testified that she was one of the house
supervisors at Ochsner at that time. She responded to the
Code Blue issued for Ms. Spears. When she arrived, Ms. Spears
was diaphoretic, sitting in her chair almost
"postictal." She looked "dazed, very sweaty,
didn't look good." Ms. Smith and an emergency room
physician urged Ms. Spears to go to the ER, but Ms. Spears
responded that she was fine and would drive herself home. Ms.
Spears became very adamant that she not be examined, which
Ms. Smith thought was outside of her general character and
which put Ms. Smith on alert that something was not quite
right. As a result Ms. Smith contacted Global Safety Network,
to arrange for alcohol testing.
Lager testified that she was an employee with Global, and
that she performed drug and alcohol tests both in the office
and in the field. On December 27, 2014, she was summoned to
Ochsner, where she administered a breathalyzer test to Ms.
Spears. Three samples were taken fifteen minutes apart. The
first sample revealed a result of 0.132%. Ms. Spears did not
properly blow into the machine on the second test, and the
result voided. The third sample, fifteen minutes after the
second, yielded a result of 0.098%.
Lager further stated that the machine calibration was
immediately checked after the testing, as was standard
procedure anytime there was a positive reading. Finally, Ms.
Lager testified that there were fifteen minute intervals
between tests because alcohol in the mouth, as in mouthwash,
would dissipate after fifteen minutes.
Gaffney, R.N., testified that she was the unit supervisor of
the telemetry unit and that Ms. Spears worked under her
supervision. Concerning Ms. Spears' work habits, she did
not timely complete nursing notes, and she would not carry
her Spectralink communication device on her person to allow
communication with other personnel. Ms. Spears had issues
with absenteeism, as well as complaints that personnel could
not locate her on the unit when she was working. Furthermore,
there were several instances where Ms. Spears failed to
timely administer medications and failed to timely
communicate with physicians concerning their patients. Ms.
Gaffney related one instance in which one of the physicians
informed her that she observed Ms. Spears hiding behind a
curtain in an empty patient room. Ms. Gaffney further
testified regarding an incident in which it was believed that
Ms. Spears did not timely administer medicine, resulting in a
patient's transfer to ICU, and then failed to notify the
patient's physician of that transfer. This incident
resulted in the physician issuing an order that Ms. Spears no
longer be allowed to care for that physician's patients.
Ms. Gaffney identified a Performance Evaluation prepared in
April 2014, in which it was marked that Ms. Spears
"achieves expectations." Ms. Gaffney stated that
this evaluation meant that Ms. Spears had met the minimum
requirements of what was expected of the job.
Spears' next evaluation was held in November 2014. Ms.
Gaffney had a conversation with Ms. Spears concerning
attendance, untimely completion of nursing notes, untimely
notification to doctors of problems and untimely
administration of medicines, as well as Ms. Spears'
failure to carry the Spectralink device. Also discussed was a
complaint made by the physician concerning Ms. Spear's
performance with patients and care delivery, the doctor's
questioning of Ms. Spear's abilities which resulted in
the physician requesting that Ms. Spears not be assigned to
any of her patients. This request led to Ms. Spears'
subsequent conflict with co-workers when that doctor's
patients were accidentally assigned to Ms. Spears and then
reassigned to her co-workers. A performance improvement plan
was drafted, with the stipulation that Ms. Spears be assigned
low acuity patients only.
interview with Ms. Spears concerning Ms. Spears'
termination from employment, Ms. Gaffney's notes
concerning the termination conversation reflect that Ms.
Spears told her that she needed alcohol to sleep at night,
otherwise she would be tired at work. Ms. Spears denied
making this statement to Ms. Gaffney.
Caleyo, R.N., B.S.N., testified that she had been employed at
West Jefferson Medical Center in 2010-2011, and that Ms.
Spears worked under her supervision. Despite repeated
attempts to rehabilitate Ms. Spears, she continued to exhibit
inadequate care for her patients. Ms. Spears was terminated
from employment due to untimely administration of
medications, failure to document patient information, failure
to follow physician orders, and poor job performance.
Spears testified on her own behalf during the hearing. She
stated that on December 27, 2014, she did not feel ill when
she reported for work. She was getting a report, and the next
thing she knew several nurses were standing around her,
telling her that she had a seizure. Ms. Smith told her she
needed to be examined, but she refused because she was
embarrassed. The night charge nurse asked her several
questions, which she was able to answer, and then stated that
she needed to be examined. She acquiesced to this second
Spears testified that she agreed to take the Breathalyzer
test and was surprised when the test showed that she had
ingested alcohol. She stated that, on the day prior, she had
consumed one glass of wine that she started sipping at twelve
o'clock with her lunch and finished at eight in the
evening before she went to bed. She also stated that when she
went to bed, she ingested one dose of Unisom, a sleeping aid.
Ms. Spears denied telling Ms. Gaffney that she needed to have
an alcoholic drink in order to sleep. Ms. Spears further
stated that she felt like she was bullied by her co-workers
and would call in sick for respite. She admitted that she was
untruthful when telling her supervisors that she was ill and
mentioned a history of Crohn's disease to excuse her
absences. Ms. Spears also addressed the incident when she was
in an empty patient's room, stating that she went to an
empty room, once or twice, to collect her thoughts because
she was constantly interrupted by her co-workers when she
attempted to write her reports.
AND RULING OF THE BOARD
consideration of the testimony and the exhibits filed, the
hearing officer made findings of fact which were considered
by the Board in its ruling. As stated by the Board in its
decision, the hearing officer found the witnesses to be
credible in their testimony, while finding Ms. Spears lacked
credibility. The Board's decision also included the
findings of fact made by the hearing officer as follows:
2. It was proven that on December 27, 2014, while employed as
a licensed practical nurse with Ochsner Medical Center-West
Bank, the respondent became unresponsive during report. After
initially refusing, the respondent submitted to an alcohol
breathalyzer screen in the emergency department. The result
of the breathalyzer screen was 0.98 [sic].
3. The hearing officer found that the following allegations
• That on November 15, 2014, the respondent missed days,
failed to complete nursing notes, failed to timely notify the
doctor with problems and failed to give medications on time.
• That on November 18, 2014, a physician questioned the
respondent's integrity with her delivery of care. The
physician requested that the respondent not be assigned to
any of her patients because the physician felt the respondent
was not competent to perform the duties. Specifically, a
patient was transferred to ICU as a result of an increased
heart rate. The physician believes if the patient would have
received routine medications, the patient's status change
could have been prevented.
• That on December 19, 2014, the respondent was assigned
to care for four of the physician's patients after the
request was made that she not care for any of the
physician's patients. While attempting to reassign the
patients to comply with the physician's concerns, several
co-workers complained that the respondent was not very
pleasant. This resulted in a performance improvement plan. It
was noted that the respondent was previously coached on
medications (late with meds-monitor), documentation (open
charts, I/O review), MD notification of patient status
changes and critical labs, communication, visibility on unit
and limited choices of patients (need low acuity, honesty
with care). It was noted that ...