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Wrable v. Community Memorial Hospital

Decided: July 12, 1985.

MARILYN S. WRABLE, R.N. M.S., C.S., PLAINTIFF, THE NEW JERSEY STATE NURSES ASSOCIATION AND THE SOCIETY OF CERTIFIED CLINICAL SPECIALISTS IN PSYCHIATRIC NURSING, PLAINTIFFS-INTERVENORS,
v.
COMMUNITY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF COMMUNITY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL-DENTAL STAFF OF COMMUNITY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL DEFENDANTS



Wiley, J.s.c.

Wiley

[205 NJSuper Page 439] Plaintiff, a psychiatric nurse, instituted this perogative writ action in lieu of mandamus seeking an order compelling the

defendant, Community Memorial Hospital ("CMH"), to consider her application for membership on its adjunct medical-dental staff. In the alternative, plaintiff seeks an order compelling CMH to amend its by-laws to provide eligibility for adjunct medical-dental staff membership to certified clinical specialists in psychiatric nursing. Plaintiff also seeks compensatory and punitive damages based on an alleged wrongful denial to the adjunct medical-dental staff and for violations of the New Jersey Anti-Trust Act. The pre-trial order provides and the parties have agreed that plaintiff's claims for damages will await a determination of her legal rights.

The New Jersey State Nurses Association and the Society of Certified Clinical Specialists in Psychiatric Nursing were granted leave to intervene and have done so.

Plaintiff is a licensed professional nurse in the State of New Jersey, having fulfilled the requirements set forth in N.J.S.A. 45:11-23 et seq. She holds a master's degree in psychiatric mental health nursing from Rutgers University and is certified as a clinical specialist in psychiatric nursing by the American Nursing Association and the Society of Certified Clinical Specialists in Psychiatric Nursing of the New Jersey State Nurses Association. The latter two associations are private organizations in the sense that they are not statutorily created and their certification is not necessary to practice as a professional nurse in New Jersey. Plaintiff is one of 56 certified clinical specialists in psychiatric nursing among 90,000 registered professional nurses statewide. There is no state licensing procedure for psychiatric nursing.

Plaintiff maintains an office on Hospital Drive in Toms River on the same street the defendant hospital is located, and there she engages in the private practice of psychiatric nursing. Plaintiff uses psychotherapy to treat those who come to her with emotional and psychological disturbances.

The defendant hospital is a non-profit charitable corporation of the state of New Jersey, which serves the greater Toms

River area. It does not have a psychiatric department or unit nor does it have doctors of psychiatry on its medical staff, other than on a consulting basis. It is not designed, nor equipped, to handle patients requiring psychiatric care.

The by-laws of the defendant hospital provide that membership on the medical-dental staff is limited to doctors of medicine, dentistry and osteopathy who are duly licensed by the State of New Jersey. Membership on the adjunct medical-dental staff is restricted to those qualified to practice podiatry in accordance with N.J.S.A. 45:5-1 et seq. Plaintiff does not possess the necessary qualifications according to the defendant's by-laws to be admitted to the adjunct medical-dental staff.

On two occasions in 1983 plaintiff's clients were admitted to the defendant hospital for medical treatment. Pursuant to these admissions plaintiff requested application forms from CMH for membership to the adjunct medical-dental staff in order that she might treat her clients while they are in the hospital. The request for the forms was duly considered by the president of CMH, Mr. James P. Schuessler, who initially denied it since the by-laws of the hospital did not provide for membership on the adjunct medical-dental staff to certified clinical specialists in psychiatric nursing. Thereafter, on November 7, 1983 the executive committee of the medical-dental staff, at its regular meeting, appointed a committee to study the request made by plaintiff for the privileges she seeks. This committee was to report back to the executive committee in 60 days. Plaintiff's attorney was kept advised of the actions of the hospital. Prior to the expiration of the 60-day period, plaintiff instituted suit and action on the matter was stayed by the defendant hospital pending this Court's decision.

Plaintiff argues that the defendants have a legal obligation to serve the public interest and may not arbitrarily restrict health care professionals from the adjunct medical-dental staff as they have done in this case. Defendants, on the other hand, contend ...


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