The extraordinary burdens placed on nurses in current medical facilities lead many nurses to fall victim to unfounded accusations and disciplinary issues. The nursing community, now more than ever, needs to be aware of the legal representation available to them in these difficult and stressful times. The regulations and administrative procedures that must be followed when presenting a defense to such accusations and allegations require the representation of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in order to successfully navigate through the complex issues and present the best defense possible. Whether it is the improper administration of a patient’s medication or the failure to document an order, the duties of the nursing profession place nurses in many difficult positions.
Receiving notification of a complaint or investigation from the Arizona Board of Nursing (“Board”) can be a scary development for any nurse. If a complaint is filed against a nurse an investigation will be initiated by the Board in order to determine whether the claim has merit. The Investigator will send a letter and questionnaire to the nurse seeking additional information regarding the circumstances behind the complaint. Do not answer or reply without first seeking legal counsel.
An experienced and qualified attorney can help you write a well-reasoned response that describes, in the most favorable way, the circumstances behind the complained of behavior. A complaint can lead to disciplinary action, probation, suspension or revocation of a nursing license; thus, a nurse must take the complaint very seriously. Below is a general time-line regarding the first stage of an Arizona Board of Nursing Complaint:
- A Complaint is filed with the Arizona Board of Nursing
- The Board determines if they have jurisdiction over the complaint
- If the Board has jurisdiction, the nurse is given a status of “Complaint/Self Report”
- An Investigator is assigned and a case number is given
- The Investigator sends a notification letter and questionnaire to the nurse and the investigation begins
- The nurse is given time (generally 14-30 days) to respond with information regarding the events behind the complaint.
- After the questionnaire is received your Board investigator will subpoena your employment records for the last 5 years (Your current employer will find out!)
- The investigator will schedule a investigative interview to speak with you about the complaint and your work history
- After the interview the investigator will create an Investigative Report (“IR“) with the factual findings and conclusions of law.
- The investigator will meet with other Board staff for Peer Review and discuss the merits and possible disciplinary action for your case
- After peer review the investigator will likely forward two disciplinary recommendations to the Board
- Your case will be scheduled to be heard at the next bi-monthly Board meeting
We strongly advise that any nurse seek legal counsel prior to responding to any Arizona Board of Nursing investigation; this includes speaking on the phone with an Investigator or submitting any written response. Retaining legal counsel gives you the best chance of mitigating the disciplinary action from the Board.
Here are some tips in regards to a licensing board complaint:
- Politely refuse to speak to any representative from the board asking you questions regarding the complaint. State that your attorney has instructed you not to speak to any representative from the Board and that they should contact your attorney.
- Do not discuss the events surrounding the complaint with co-workers or the administration of your facility.
- Document the events surrounding the complaint in detail. Your memory will degrade over time, so make certain to list dates, times, names and events around the event as soon as possible.
- Any witnesses familiar with the incident that are willing to testify on your behalf should write down their recollection of the events in an affidavit (a sworn statement).
If you have received notice of a complaint or are under investigation it is in your best interest to contact an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney as soon as possible.