Monthly Archives: October 2014

Kaci Hickox and her license to practice nursing in Maine Oct 30 2014

The right wing nut jobs are going crazy about Ebola.

First off, before you go anywhere, check out one or the other of my two books on Amazon. Yes, I am a USA Registered Nurse, with both teaching experience and adult critical care experience; yes, I have worked with infectious diseases though not Ebola; and yes, I try to convey to my readers about the experience of nursing in a Low Resource Setting. I have a nursing license in the country of Nepal and I’m currently living in Kathmandu teaching critical care nursing.

Get to the Point?

I heartily applaud Kaci Hickox, RN, BSN, MPH for her work with Ebola victims. On the internet I found a small PR piece about her from the U of Texas at Austin, which gives a short version of her CV. She is the kind of person we need on the front lines fighting this illness.

Ms. Hickox has become a celebrity, by a strange twist of fate. Most likely she would not be famous unless Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, hadn’t tried to wrongfully imprison her in The Garden State. I do not know any USA nurse that would voluntarily forego a daily shower or opportunity to practice meticulous hygiene; What was Christie thinking?

One thing that makes me laugh is so many comments saying that the Maine Board of Nursing (MEBON) should pull her license – i.e., take it away or prevent her from working in Maine. A fellow nurse went so far as to find the MEBON website where it lists possible disciplinary actions.

This is simply not possible. Why? because Ms. Hickox does not have a Maine RN license in the first place.  (you can search for the licnese of an RN in Maine, online). For that reason, the MEBON can not do anything about her. From what I can tell, Ms. Hickox is going to Maine to chill out for awhile and await the 21-day period. It’s a fine place for that sort of thing.

As an aside, this reminds me of that famous quip by the late John Silber of Boston University. They asked his opinion of nuclear power. He replied “Maine is a good location for a nuclear power plant-where the damn thing could have an accident and not hurt anybody.”(sic). This did not endear him to the people of Maine.

disclaimer: I don’t speak for the Maine State Board of Nursing. I am writing this because I doubt that the Board will make any statement. It’s not a political agency.

Nursing licenses, like most professional licenses, are administered on a state-by-state basis. The exception is the “multi-state nursing license compact,” of which Maine is a member, but even then, Maine has no jurisdiction over Ms. Hickox. If you don’t have a nursing license in Maine, and you don’t try to practice nursing in Maine, the Maine State Board of Nursing will not do anything about you.  It’s not in their mission.

The Board’s mission is “to protect the public” from incompetent or impaired nurses and to regulate the practice of nursing. Since Ms. Hickox is hanging out at her boyfriend’s house and not seeking employment, she is no threat to the public.

The Board can only act against the license, not the person. The Board can not put a person in jail.

Finally, it is crystal clear that Ms. Hickox in engaging in public advocacy in the highest tradition of American democracy and the Code of Ethics for nurses.  Any nurse knows that the most important part of their job is to “speak truth to power” and that is what she is doing.  Boards of Nursing in general are reluctant to use their authority  to limit this type of activity. To give a corollary from Medicine, Bill Frist, the doctor/former Senator from Tennessee, did not lose his license to practice medicine despite his pronouncements about Terri Schiavo.

Finally, even if Ms. Hickox does develop the fullblown illness, it does not change the validity of her position on the abuse of power taking place. She is presently not contagious. She is following the CDC guidelines. Christie ( and now LePage) need to actually seek the advice of scientists, and stop making things up as they go along.

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