Q. What do I do?
You must take any investigation seriously, but don’t lose your mind. Most nurses frantically think they will “lose their license”, but that is most often not the case. Go to your state Board of Nursing website to see what the Disciplinary Process involves and what steps they say you should take. Hopefully their website will have this information, but some sites are not very informative.
First thing to do is contact the Investigator or person who sent you the letter, in writing; (call and see if an e mail is permissible, or you may have to send a letter, most of the time, e mail is fine) tell them you have received their letter, and you take it seriously, and will be sending a response. You may ask for an extension of time to submit your response, as you should send other documentation along with it. See examples in responses and videos on this site.
Ask if you have a right to review the documents (some states allow this from the beginning, some do not). You do have to ask for the documents, as even if the board allows you to review any documents they gather, they generally will not make this suggestion to you. You need to draft a response that is concise, well written, shows respect, explains exactly what happened, describes the environment, ie mitigating circumstances, if they exist. You don’t want to admit to things that did not happen, or that have been miscommunicated or misconstrued. Do not, in the interest of being cooperative, admit to anything that is a gray area, or for which you have another perspective or set of facts. See the examples of responses on this site.
Q. Will I lose my license?
Generally, most investigations do not result in loss of license, but that action is always available to the Board if they deem it appropriate. If you ignore the investigation and do not respond, you may lose your license simply as a result of not responding. The State Boards are serious about investigations, as the boards are in place to protect the public from unsafe practice.
Q. What if the complaint involves substance abuse?
Most all state boards have peer assistance programs: if you do have a substance abuse problem, you need help, and usually the process is confidential. Accept help before something bad happens to a patient, which will result in more trouble for you, especially if any harm to a patient can be tied to substance abuse. If you don’t have a substance abuse problem, and the charge is incorrect, you should fight it, as you don’t want that on your history if it is untrue. Remember that a DUI or DWI does not necessarily mean you have a substance abuse problem, but if you get one, and successfully make this argument to your board of nursing be sure you NEVER get another.
Q. What if I do have a substance abuse problem?
If you have a problem, you should get help, certainly before something negative happens to a patient or family member. See the answer above.
Q. What if I have an arrest in my past?
A past arrest does not preclude you from being a nurse, but you need to look at your state board website to see what levels of crimes may disqualify you, or what measures you must take to explain your past to the board. Often the board will look at several variables including but not limited to; your age at the time of the criminal activity, if there is evidence of remorse, if the activity showed disregard for another person, if there was violence or physical or sexual abuse. They look to time passed and what you have been doing since that time. Please check your board website, as you need to understand what you need in terms of documentation to present the board if you move forward.
Q. What are some of the things that the Board can make me do?
The board may have you pay a fine, take courses, work under some type of supervision, submit reports from your employer, any or all of the above. Some orders require you work a certain number of hours in a specific facility, forbid multiple employers, and do not allow home care, agency, or travel nursing. This can be negotiated, sometimes, but usually is not open to change.Check your state board website.
Q. Can I go to another state if I have an Order in my home state?
Each state will want to monitor your compliance with their order so it is sometimes difficult to move to another state, but depending on the circumstances, it may be possible. You will always be asked by any state if you are or have been under any disciplinary order, you must be truthful. Remember that in this day of the internet, all States can find information on any nurse, any order is usually reported to the National Practitioner Databank, which has that information forever, and there is the NURSYS system, which also records any disciplinary activity.
Q. What if the Board sends me an Order that I disagree with?
You can usually try to negotiate the terms of an order, or the wording of the Findings of Fact, which are contained in most orders. The board may not be willing to change anything, they may be willing to alter the wording to some extent, or they may be willing to lessen the order.
PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THIS SITE DOES NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE, THIS SITE OFFERS CONSULTATION ONLY BASED UPON MY YEARS OF REPRESENTING NURSES IN FRONT OF STATE BOARDS OF NURSING. GENERALLY, IT IS BEST TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENT YOU, BUT IF THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE, THE INFORMATION HERE IS GENERALLY VALID NATIONWIDE. CHECK YOUR STATE BOARD OF NURSING WEBSITE FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROCESS IN YOUR STATE.