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P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  16 yrs. of trial experience
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I agreed to accept school money to finish nursing school by

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I agreed to accept school money to finish nursing school by a hospital. In return I would work for them for 42 months.

I felt I must quite after just over a year because of unsafe work environment. Now they have sent the remaining balance to collections. It has been almost a year that I have been trying to resolve the issue through letters with no success.

Is there anyway to resolve this through the courts without costing me an arm and leg? They are trying to collect approx. $4000.

I would have stayed if I didn't feel I would have lost my nursing license or ended up hurting a patient due to the situations I was forced into as a new nurse.
Thanks for the chance to help. I am an attorney with over 12 years experience. Hopefully I can help you with your legal question.

Can you give a bit more information about what you mean by

They are trying to collect approx. $4000.

Have they filed suit to collect?

Or at this point are they still trying to collect from you directly?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The way the situation began. I had a year of school left. I applied for a scholarship program and received $6000 for school. In return I would work at their facility for 42 months. I do not have the contract with me now. I will forward it later since I just joined your monthly service.


After I left the hospital approx. 6 months later, I received a call from a collection agency. I told them and wrote a letter declaring that the monies they were trying to collect was from a contract that had been broken and was not a valid debt.


I believe since they didn't provide a safe work environment they didn't hold up their end of the bargain.


I have not received anything that would indicate they have any kind of judgement against me.

Thank you

Tell me a bit more about this "unsafe working environment"...did you complain to the hospital about this?

If do, do you have documentations to support (for example, a letter from you telling the hospital to correct this or you will consider the contract void)?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

During the time I was employed at the hospital, I made several complaint to my preceptors and appropriate supervisor. I also have copies of my orientation forms that prove I was to remain on orientation during the multiple times I was required to act as a nurse off orientation. The pay stubs I have also indicate that I received periodic pay as a nurse vs. an orientee. I did not write any letters formally complaining to the company at the time of employment for fear of losing my job.


Here is a copy of the letters I wrote.


To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter in hopes that you will reconsider my position regarding repayment of the student loan I received.

I explained during the exit interview that the reason I left St. Alphonsus Ontario was to protect my license. It is of my opinion the St. Alphonsus did not provide a safe working environment which forced me to leave.

On several occasions I was taken off orientation to cover shifts that were short handed. Then I was put back on orientation. Each time this happened my license was at risk. I worked with Bobbie Turnipseed in the CCU when they were short handed with more patients than she could attend to. The supervisor was called and made aware of the unsafe situation but nothing was done to resolve the issue. I ended up taking care of patients myself on orientation while she took care of the more critical pts.

During my orientation I was required to cross train in the ED. I received 7 days of orientation in the ED before I was given a full patient load. This ended rather badly. I cared for a patient that may have had an MI. The patient was released without any of the lab work being completed. The next day I was called into Linda’s office to meet with her and the risk manager. They both apologized profusely for not providing the proper training. Directly all the shifts that I was begged to cover were taken away and I went back to orientation. I was told not to talk about this event without the risk manager in the room, so I will leave it at that.

I was called into work because they needed help. I get there to find out I’m working the CCU with Ben who had only been off orientation 1 month and I had only been off for less than a week. We had 5 patients in the CCU. Three of them were level 3 pts. The supervisor again was informed of the unsafe staffing situation…no staffing changes were made. You might say this is what you were trained to do, but look at this comparison. I offered to do some PRN shifts to help out with my exit. I was told that I didn’t have enough experience to work independently. I would need to have a senior nurse working the same shift to be safe and that wasn’t what they were looking for in a PRN person. How was that situation any different?

In addition to unsafe staffing practice, many of the guidelines outlined by the employment agreement were not followed. The union handbook states that nurses will receive a ½ hour lunch per shift and three 15 min. breaks. I was never afforded 15 min. breaks unless I had no patients at that time. There were many occasions I worked through lunch without a reprieve. The handbook also states that final schedules won’t be changed. I had this happen as well.

I don’t think I stated anything in this letter that you can’t look up in a paystub, time card, incident report, orientation daily progress report or work schedule. I would encourage you to do so if you feel I have inaccurately stated the facts.

By requiring me to repay the scholarship, you are saying that this is the standard of practice at St. Alphonsus Ontario and that is what I should have expected from you as an employer. I believe if the job had been presented to me this way, I not only would have turned down the job but I would also have refused the scholarship. After restating my position, hopefully you can see that I was forced to leave in order to protect my license. Since I was forced to leave, I don’t feel that it is my responsibility to repay the scholarship.


Brett Cobler

Brett Cobler 4/14/13

888 Valiant Ave.

Middleton, Idaho 83644

To whom it may concern:

This invoice involving myself and St. Alphonsus is not a valid debt.

I am in the process of disputing the moneys St. Alphonsus is trying to collect from me. The money they are trying to get me to repay is not for services rendered. It is for a scholarship I accepted for school. The premise behind the scholarship was that they provide money for my schooling and in return I work for them a prescribed amount of time.

I finished school and went to work for them. However, they did not provide a safe work environment. They put me and my nursing license at jeopardy on several occasions not to mention the patients I was caring for. I was therefore forced to leave the hospital prior to my full commitment to protect myself, my license and the patients.

I am providing a letter that I sent to St. Alphonsus in November. I have not heard anything about this until the first call I received from the collection agency a few weeks ago. I thought I had resolved the issue in November. Obviously they are going to push the issue to a third party to resolve the issue, probably a legal entity.


Brett Cobler


To Whom It May Concern:

This is a dispute letter regarding the scholarship money’s received in return for a safe work environment. The commitment of 42 months of service was based on the employment agreement of a safe working environment. During my employment, I was subjected to multiple incidences that put my license, the patients and the company at risk. I was provided improper training with unqualified personnel. I was assigned preceptors that had less than one year ER nursing experience and less than two years total nursing experience. I was even paired with traveling nurses as preceptors when no other qualified preceptors were available. I was paired with nursing staff with less than one year experience after completing orientation in the CCU. I was also nursing with an intern doctor that switched charts in the ER causing multiple lab tests and other studies not to be performed on a patient which resulted in an incident. I already described the incident that was caused by this lack of proper training and supervision in a previous rebuttal letter. Finally, and one of the most key factors to this injustice, I was taken away from my orientation before it was completed on multiple occasions to cover nursing shortages. I was required to work multiple shifts as a fully trained RN without a preceptor and then put back on orientation the very next shift to continue my training.

I believe lawsuits are going to be the down fall of this country. I have been trying to avoid going that far. I do however believe that when a company isn’t willing to protect their employees with a safe working environment there are other options. There are several governing bodies that insure worker safety including OSHA, JACHO, Bureau of Labor and Industries and of course State Nursing Board. I have spoken with the Oregon State Board of Nursing and The Oregon State Bureau of Labor and Industries. They believe my actions were appropriate. They would have liked my written complaint at the time of the call. I do not want to do any more work than I have to on this matter. I will be submitting a detailed accounting of the time spent at your facility if the matter is not rectified through this letter. I was trying to avoid all this political red tape by just leaving your facility. Your company is forcing me to address the issue by turning me over to collections for a contract that was broken making it null and void.

In conclusion, I am requesting that you discontinue the collection activity on this unwarranted claim. I will contact the collect agency in 30 days to see if they have received proper instruction from your company to discontinue collection activity. I will also be determining if my credit has been cleaned up due to the misunderstanding. If these two items are not complete, I will be forced to move forward defending my decision by informing the appropriate governing agencies in writing.

Brett Cobler

Thank you

Give me a few minutes to review...I will come back with some thoughs

One more question please...can you tell me, the letters you wrote...were they before or after you accepted the money for school?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I accepted the scholarship monies, finished school, took my boards, got my license, went to work for SAMCO, experienced the unsafe conditions, made the verbal complaints, resigned my position, then started writing letters at the point of SAMCO trying to collect.

Thank you

That makes it tough...that is, it may make it tough that you do not have a written complaint AFTER taking the money.

Tell me this, is there anyone who can corroborate your experiences? Either a peer who could testify (if this went to court) about the conditions or your experiences.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I believe I could get written statements (or have them testify) from some of the preceptors involved as well as some of the other nurses who left during this change of management.


I am also writing down the incident I referred to in the letter for you to see. if that is helpful


Here is an accounting of the incident I referred to. I was working the ER after four days of orientation. I was assigned my own pt that shift because the hospital was short handed that shift. I was caring for a patient that came in a lot (regular) with complaints of anxiety and chest pain.

The head doctor for the ER was on that night with an intern. The intern was assigned the patient as well as myself. The intern assessed the patient and asked the head doctor for his opinion. The course of action was to give nitro sublingual and Ativan. I misread the order and gave a Nitro trial, which is 3 doses of nitro 5 min. apart or until pain resolves. I returned to the doctor told him that the pain resolved after the 3 doses of nitro. I questioned him by asking how he knew which medication resolved the issue. He said that he knew the patient and he was regularly in for anxiety and that the ativan did the trick. I later discharged the patient unaware that none of the studies had been done that was ordered. The next day, I was informed that the patient had a heart attack driving to work. I didn’t notice the intern moving the chart around, which is why the ordered studies didn’t get completed.

I was called to the supervisors office the next morning to meet with the risk manager and my supervisor. They apologized profusely for the lack of training I had received an put me back on orientation that day.

Thank you

FIRST some background info

This is, in essence, a contract law issue.

And I want to start by saying that, at the end of the day, it is quite possible you are forced to pay back some, if not all of the money, even if you win the contract case under the legal theory of "unjust enrichment" (more on that below)

But lets talk about how this can possibly play out.

Under contract law, both sides to the contact have a duty to comply with their obligations under the contract. So, for example, if you promised to work for a period of time and do not, that could be grounds for a lawsuit to seek damages (the money the company lost by your not complying with your contract obligations).

At the same time, the company has a duty to act "in good faith" during the contract period. So, for example, if they did not provide you with safe working environment? That can be grounds for you to declare the company in breach of the contract and the contract void.

Prior to declaring the contract void, you also have a duty to act in good faith. And this would require you to give the company notice of the safety issues AND the chance to correct the problem.

If you give the company notice of the safety issues and the company refuses to correct the issue, that can be grounds for you to void the contract. If you do not give the company notice and a chance to fix, or if there is not a safety issues that impacts your personal safety (chance of death or injury), then you would not have grounds to void the contract.

THe best way to give notice to the company would be in writing (so there is no issue as to what you said and when you said it)

What you describe? It sounds like you gave notice, but not in writing. That is a potential problem. Since you have to prove what you said and when you said it. The other potential problem is you have to prove a clear threat to your safety other than what is expected in the normal working environmnet.

Assuming you can prove both of the above? Then you would have a basis to void the contract.

But then there is the concept of "unjust enrichment". They gave you money. You used it...and then you did not work for them. So even if they had safety issues, there is still the issue of unjust enrichment.

In law, unjust enrichment is where one person is unjustly or by chance enriched at the expense of another, and an obligation to make restitution arises, regardless of liability for wrongdoing. A common example is when a party contracts to provide a service, but the contract is terminated prematurely due to a breach, and the contractor unjustly receives no compensation for partial services rendered.

SO it could be you go to court on this, fight and win the contract issue and still have to give back some of the money.

SECOND...on to your question

What you describe, there is a collections company trying to get money from you. They can attempt to collect. And you can refuse to pay. And life goes on...

They can not force you to pay unless they go to court.

If they go to court, you could raise the issue of contract breach...and it may be you win this (and do not have to pay any money) or that you win but still have to pay back some money under unjust enrichment

EIther way, if you go to court you will want to use a lawyer to assist you.

I suspect they are reporting this on your credit. They can. And you can dispute it...and if they continue to report, you can hire a lawyer and sue them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA is federal law that helps consumers fight improper negative credit reporting.

But what you describe, this would be a somewhat complex would require you to prove they breached the contract and you gave them fair warning AND that there was not unjust enrichment. It is not a "slam dunk" case on your part. It could be you win...or it could be they win.

Still you have that can sue them to force them to stop reporting this on your credit

Or...if you are not worried about your credit, you can ignore this unless/until they try and sue

Finally, you can try and negotiate a settlement with them...perhaps they will take a portion of the money they are demanding to close this case (and remove the negative credit reporting). If you do negotiate a settlement make sure to get it in writing

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