Breaking Down a BRN Complaint

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Breaking Down a BRN Complaint

Know the disciplinary process

By Angela Hermosillo, RN, JD
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Thousands of complaints are filed with state boards of nursing each year by a patient, a patient’s family member, an employer or even a co-worker. And while each state has adopted its own procedure for resolving complaints, they generally follow a model similar to the one outlined below. Every licensed professional should be familiar with the applicable disciplinary process. 

Once a complaint is received and the board verifies that they have jurisdiction and authority over the matter, an investigation into the merit of the allegations will begin. If the claims made are especially grievous, the board may elect to take emergency action and immediately limit or suspend the nurse’s license. The nurse is typically provided with a summary of the allegations and notified that an investigation has been initiated. An exception may be made if providing notice to the nurse would compromise the investigation.

The investigator will interview witnesses and gather evidence. At this point, the nurse will likely be given the opportunity to provide a written response to the allegations. The response should make every effort to demonstrate compliance with the state’s nurse practice act and should be delivered in a timely fashion in order to initiate a strong defense to the allegations.

Once the investigator has completed the gathering of evidence, he or she will determine whether or not there is any merit to the case and make a report to the board. If the investigation did not substantiate the claims, the case will likely be dismissed with or without the option to revisit the matter if future evidence arises. In the event that the allegations are validated and the board determines that disciplinary action is appropriate, a hearing will be scheduled. 

During the hearing, evidence and testimony will be presented, and the nurse will be given opportunity to ask questions and present additional information. The board may then choose to generate a proposed order containing findings of fact, conclusions of law and proposed sanctions. The nurse may agree to sign the proposed order or attempt to negotiate the terms. Alternatively, the case may be forwarded to the attorney general for more formal action. Potential sanctions and penalties can include warnings, probation, monitoring, fines, education and/or license suspension or revocation. The board’s actions are likely a matter of public record and can also be reported to national license databanks. 
While legal representation is not required during board proceedings, it is strongly recommended that competent legal counsel be consulted for advice and/or full representation. While it may seem like an impossible expense, it would be a mistake to downplay the significance of these proceedings and the effect they can have on your future. 

Angela Hermosillo, RN, JD, is a nurse-attorney who works as a consultant in the areas of health care, insurance and employment law. She obtained her J.D. from the University of Idaho and her nursing degree from Ricks College. Have a question? Email them to beth@workingnurse.com.

Nothing in this article is or should be construed as the giving of legal advice or as forming an attorney-client relationship. If legal advice is required, the reader should seek out competent legal counsel from an attorney licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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