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Nursing Complaint

Investigation Process

Board of Nursing Investigation Process

As a nurse, you have worked for years to earn your license. Receiving a notice that you are being investigated for a complaint against your license can seem overwhelming. It is important that you act immediately if you receive a complaint against your license or a letter from your state Board of Nursing regarding an investigation into your clinical practice. Your state’s nursing board is a governmental agency, and its purpose is to protect the public rather than you. Understanding what might happen during a nursing board investigation is important so that you can take the necessary steps to protect your license.

Who can file a complaint against my license?

Patients, doctors, other nurses, healthcare facilities and any member of the public who has reason to believe that you have violated the rules governing the conduct of nurses may file a complaint against your nursing license. While not all nursing complaints are valid, and you may believe that any complaint against you is untrue, it is still important to take a Nursing Board Investigation that has been opened against your license seriously. If you fail to act, if you fail to respond to your State Board of Nursing, you may have your nursing license suspended or revoked.

Before an investigation starts

When the Board of Nursing receives a complaint about you, it will first determine whether or not it is one that the Board has jurisdiction to investigate, which simply means that the Nursing Board will check whether or not you are licensed in its jurisdiction. If you are, the Nursing Board will then look at the conduct that has been alleged to determine if it is something that would violate the rules and regulations regarding nursing, if true. If the Nursing Board determines that it has jurisdiction and that your alleged conduct would violate the rules and regulations of nursing in your state, or would violate the Nursing Practice Act, it will send you a notice that you are under investigation.

Types of cases against nurses
Any member of the public can file any type of complaint against a nurse. A family may say the nurse acted in an unprofessional manner, a physician may file a  complaint about a nurse’s treatment or interaction with a patient, a hospital may file a complaint based upon what they believe is incorrect or inappropriate treatment, improper medication administration, absent or incorrect documentation, lack of documentation of wastage of controlled substances, behavior that they believe is indicative of substance use or abuse, or any other activity or behavior that they label as not in keeping with good nursing care.

There are several categories of complaints that are investigated by Boards of Nursing, including but not limited to:

  • Substance-abuse related
  • Fraud, criminal conduct
  • Criminal record
  • Physical, sexual, elderly abuse allegations
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Boundary issues
  • Clinical practice issues which can essentially be anything related to clinical nursing practice, medication errors, documentation errors, treatment errors, staffing miscommunication, personality conflicts leading to unsafe environments

Your notice of investigation of your practice and your nursing license will inform you about the nursing complaint and what you are alleged to have done, which is important for you to know so that you can begin to build your defense in response to the State Board of Nursing.

Overview of the investigative process

Once you receive notice that an investigation by the State Board of Nursing is opened against you, we encourage you to call a lawyer who handles these types of Administrative Law cases. She/he can advise you if they are able to assist you and help you to understand the process so that you know what to do and what not to do as the investigation unfolds. If you cannot hire a lawyer then at the very least you must review your State’s Nursing Practice Act, and your State’s Board of Nursing website so you may see what they outline as acceptable nursing practice, and what their process is for responding to a complaint. The first thing to do is to contact the Board of Nursing in writing to let them know you are aware of the Investigation and that you are taking this very seriously.

We have developed this site,  to assist you in understanding the process of a State Board of Nursing Investigation into your clinical nursing practice. We have included here examples of initial correspondence with a state Board of Nursing, and many examples of actual Responses used in real cases. (The facts, locations, dates and names have been altered to protect the persons involved).

The Board of Nursing will ask you to respond to the complaint in writing, and it is very important that you seek advice before sending your answer. The State Board of Nursing may also ask the person who complained about you to provide more information and the State Board of Nursing may conduct interviews. The investigators may also complete site visits. The investigative process may take months to complete, and there are things you should do to advocate for yourself in this process of responding to a Board of Nursing Complaint.

In this website, we have gathered information that can be useful to you in your responding to a Board of Nursing Complaint. We have gathered documents from real cases of real investigations by state Boards of Nursing, real responses, that you may download and use for examples of how to respond to your State Board of Nursing.

Part of the Investigation process includes reviewing your response to the complaint allegations. This Response to the complaint is very important, and it is your opportunity to present  yourself to the Board in the best light possible. Your Response should include information about you and the allegations, as we delineate in the website, and not just be a simple “I did not do this” statement. You should include other  information that may be considered by the State Board of Nursing in their consideration of the complaint. We advise that you be truthful, but try to shed light on areas that may give examples of why there are other things to consider when looking at the allegation(s) as a whole. We  go into more detail regarding these issues in the website.

Once the Board of Nursing investigation is completed, the Board of Nursing will then decide whether or not to initiate a disciplinary action against you or to dismiss the complaint. You will be notified either way. If the Board of Nursing decides that an Order is appropriate, they will contact you and you will see what they believe is the right course of action. You may usually negotiate with them about the Order, and, as each state is different, the negotiations may be by telephone conversation with your Investigator, or you may be able to go the the State Board of Nursing to discuss your case.

It is helpful to have an attorney, but in case you can not afford an attorney, there is information in this website, that may be helpful to you in this process.

If the issue cannot be resolved in negotiations with the State Board of Nursing, you generally have the option to ask for a formal disciplinary hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If you opt for this action, you should have an attorney represent you, as this is usually a more formal process that varies from state to state, and requires following certain Administrative Rules and Procedure. At this hearing, you will usually be able to present evidence and to call witnesses and ask questions.

Having an investigation opened against you by your state’s Board of Nursing can be frightening. By understanding what to expect as the investigative process continues, you will be better able to assert a defense in your response to the allegations and to save your nursing license.

Even if you have a lawyer, the information in the website can be useful to you to explain the process so you proceed from a position of knowledge.

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