Summoned by the State Nursing Board
It’s a nurse’s worst nightmare. Whether it’s a surprise or completely expected, receiving a summons to appear before the state nursing board is devastating. The stakes are high. The state nursing board has all the power, and they can suspend your license or impose any number of restrictions on it. Suspended and restricted licenses do not make for happy employers. What do you do if the worst happens and you are summoned before the board of nursing?
What happens next?
A complaint against a nurse can be filed by anyone – a colleague, a patient, patient family members, or your employers. This process is separate from any civil or criminal case that may be filed. Once a complaint is filed with a board of nursing, the boards have a complaint process that they follow from review to resolution. This process is summarized in the NCSBN video Board of Nursing Complaint Process: Investigation to Resolution (https://www.ncsbn.org/426.htm). Once a complaint hits their desk, the board has to determine if the facts as stated in the complaint are a violation of the laws that govern a nurse’s practice. If so, an investigation is initiated, and the nurse may respond to the allegations. The board then resolves the complaint. It may or may not require a hearing.
They are not your friends
First – a reality check. The men and women who serve on the state nursing board do not have your best interests at heart. Their job is not to protect you or your license. They are charged first with protecting the public interest by ensuring that standards of nursing practice are met and nurses are competent in their practice. The board of nursing has the responsibility to investigate complaints concerning nurses’ compliance with the nurse practice laws in each state. They hold hearings for license holders, and then they must determine and administer disciplinary actions based on evidence of violations of the law. To find information on one of the individual state boards of nursing, go to https://www.ncsbn.org/contactbon.htm.
Hire an attorney
The American Nurse Association advises that any nurse who has been alerted by the state board of nursing of a complaint and an impending investigation retain legal counsel for representation during the process. After all, the state nursing board has their own attorney. In many states, the state’s attorney general is the legal counsel for the board. If your livelihood is at stake, it may well be worth the money to invest in hiring an attorney. If you have nursing malpractice insurance, your legal fees may be covered. Even if you don’t have such coverage, weigh the potential costs of losing your right to practice nursing.
Understand your rights
Due process requires that the nurse receive specific information regarding the complaint filed against him or her, according to the ANA. They suggest that if licensure status is adversely affected by disciplinary action, a nurse should obtain the board’s requirements for the nurse’s license to be reinstated.
If organization isn’t your strong suit, get over that quickly. Every single piece of paper, email, and fax that is in anyway related to your case needs to be filed, organized, and cross-referenced so that you don’t have to scramble to find information. The stakes are too high to miss deadlines or lose important paperwork.
If there is a problem, the nursing board may ask you to provide additional documentation, appear before them, or fulfill any requirement such as getting an assessment or take continuing education classes. Those requests are not optional. Failure to appear or to meet the board’s demands may lead to suspension of your nursing license, even if the original complaint was not serious enough to have warranted such an action.
Take it seriously
Should you be the subject of a nursing complaint, take it seriously, says the National Council for the State Boards of Nursing, “The Board of Nursing is here to investigate the claim and to follow up, but it is also here to ensure you receive fair and just due process. The system has been designed to protect both you and the public. So when the Board of Nursing comes to a resolution, you are encouraged to comply and remember, every state has its own rules. It’s important for you to understand what those are and to abide by them.”