What happens when a nurse is reported? First, I’m not just going to talk about what happens when a nurse is reported to a nursing board. I’m going to talk about all the places a nurse can be reported. And then some things to think about as far as handling those types of situations. Now, first, this is not going to be state-specific. I’m giving general information that a nurse could use in almost any state and obviously, rules can vary from state to state, but this will just be kind of a general discussion of what happens when you’re reported. First, where are the places/agencies a nurse can be reported?
Well, let’s talk about that. First, the employer. A patient could complain about a nurse’s conduct. They could be reported to the employer and then the employer would do an investigation. Obviously, a nurse can be reported to a board if there’s alleged violation of the nurse practice act in the state. A patient, a colleague, an employer, or the police can all report a nurse to their board of nursing. A nurse can be reported to the police. And this usually comes from the employer. There are times when there is some alleged criminal conduct on part of a nurse and it may, or at least the employer may feel necessary to contact the police. Like, let’s just take, for instance, let’s say a nurse is caught diverting fentanyl, something like that, which is serious.
They would then contact the police and say, we believe the nurse was diverting fentanyl, and that is a violation of the law. And then they would investigate as well. Another frequent place the nurse could be reported would be the branch of adult protective services and whatever state you’re in, if there is allegation of patient abuse and the patient is an adult, then the adult protective services could do an investigation. The department of child services or child protective services is another place. If your patient was a child and there was abuse alleged, the child protective services in that state could initiate an investigation as well. And just to kind of give an example, I had a nurse who left a heating pad on an infant child, which caused a burn. And then obviously she didn’t mean to, there was no intent to hurt the child, but there was a negative outcome and then child protective services came in and did an investigation. Other blogs of interest include:
- Can You be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Drug Charge?
- Can you be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Assault Charge?
Those are the main places. So, employer, board, police, adult protective services, and child protective services. Those are the main places where nurses can be reported. What can you do if you’ve been reported to any of those? Well, it would depend upon the organization what you should do. If a patient complains and the employer approaches you and asks you what happened, then there are no problems talking to them about what happened. Now, I guess it would depend upon the severity of the nurse’s actions. I’ve had a couple of previous blogs that went through what happens for an employer investigation. And there are times where it doesn’t make sense to say anything, but if it’s maybe a minor disagreement, I mean, look, there are some patients/family members that are just never going to be satisfied with the care provided.
And so, in a situation like that, the nurse didn’t do anything wrong, then certainly feel free to discuss that. If the nurse screwed up in some way, then it may make sense to just kind of be quiet about it and not give a statement. If the police are involved, you must find an attorney first. I understand that some people believe they can talk their way out of things. Don’t do that. If you are contacted by any police department or even the Attorney General’s office in your state, there is a criminal investigation underway, and they’re going to talk to you and pretend like they’re your friend, and just say, why don’t you just tell me what went on here? And then they’re going to use all those things against you. If you have any kind of contact from the Attorney General’s office or a police department, or a detective or an officer, do not say anything. Call a criminal defense attorney wherever you live and have them represent you.
Not spending the money on that is extraordinarily done. That’s what you need to do. If you’ve had an adult protective services complaint, or a child protective services complaint, or whatever the name of it is in your state, once again, it might make sense to involve an attorney who has done administrative hearings. I find the investigators and a lot of those specific departments, almost always find there’s abuse. So, talking to an attorney who handles those types of things in your state would make sense. Now, as far as the board goes, once again, kind of depends upon the complaint. Sometimes, there are just completely terrible complaints, meaning, terrible like there’s no basis and fact for them and the board will likely dismiss them quickly or after a brief investigation, dismiss them. Is an attorney necessary for that?
Probably not, but there are certainly instances where an attorney who has experience with the board of nursing could absolutely assist you. I would contact them before you respond to the board at all. There are plenty of great nursing board attorneys throughout the country. You need to find somebody who has experience with your board in your state. One way of finding that would be going through old agendas. Almost every state requires open records. And so, any kind of board meeting from a governmental agency must be posted. And they do that through the minutes, which are basically a summary of what happened during a board meeting. And then the agenda, which is, this is what we’re going to discuss during the meeting. Most of the states will post if someone is represented by counsel and the minutes and then who that is.
It’s not a bad idea to look in the old minutes in your state to see who are the attorneys that are representing most of the nurses. And then that’s usually a good indication that they at least have experience. I can’t say if they’re good or not, but at least they have experience handling the board. So, that’s what happens if a nurse is reported to a bunch of different agencies. You always need to be careful about what you’re saying to anyone. Your words can be used against you. And it makes sense to involve a professional who has experience handling matters across all those areas.
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