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Helpful Hints For A Nurse in Trouble

by Taralynn Mackay, RN, JD

Getting a certified letter informing you that a complaint has been filed against your license is a frightening, embarrassing, anger producing, and intimidating situation. The effects of a complaint with the Nursing Board on your license, your career and your physical and mental health can be minimized with proper actions. The following are hints that I have found in my years of practice before the Nursing Boards to be helpful.

  • Contact your insurance carrier. If you do not have insurance, it is too late to purchase it to cover this investigation; however, you need to carry your own malpractice insurance (be sure it also covers regulatory actions).
  • Hire an experienced administrative attorney. You do not have the time nor the knowledge to effectively defend your nursing license. An attorney that has experience before the Texas Nursing Board can help you navigate the upcoming obstacles.
  • Be professional – If you have a nursing license, you are a professional and you are held to a higher standard than other occupations or jobs. Remember that the Nursing Board is your licensing agency, so treat them at all times with respect.
  • Be truthful – Never lie to the Board. They will more than likely find out (or already know) and by lying you are compounding any problems you may have with your practice. Nursing practice demands ethical behavior and honesty; by not being truthful, you are indicating that you do not have the moral fiber to practice as a nurse.
  • Do not speak to anyone about the complaint – Unfortunately, there is a misconception that a nurse under investigation is a “bad nurse.” The truth is that the majority of nurses who are reported to the Board or who ultimately receives discipline from the Board are good nurses who were caught in a bad situation or who simply made a mistake or error. Unfortunately, as staffing problems increase (understaffing, overwork, high acuity patients), so do the errors.
  • Watch out for online postings. Do not post anything online about your case because the Board monitors websites such as allnurses.com and myspace.com.
  • If the patient or patient’s family or the Board investigator contact you, do not talk to them. Although it may appear to be a friendly call, you can harm your defense by speaking (or writing) to others. Refer all contacts to your attorney.
  • Do not copy the patient’s medical record. There are legal ways to obtain the record.
  • Keep all notes you have made concerning the case and provide them to your attorney.

The author has provided this information and opinion for educational purposes only. Obviously, this material cannot address all laws and regulations that may impact all aspects of health care and please note that such laws and regulations are constantly changing. This material should not be used as a substitute for legal counseling and should not be considered as legal advice or a legal opinion. This material is not intended to take the place on legal or professional advice or services and a reader should obtain independent legal advice before undertaking any activity that may be within the scope of any law or regulation discussed in these materials.