Nurses should always take disciplinary proceedings seriously

No one would disagree with the statement made by the New York State Nurses Association that nursing is "all about delivering high-quality care to patients." Moreover, as observed by the magazine American Nurse Today, nurses have become increasingly integral to health care delivery and more autonomous in their practice. However, the increased role nurses play in our health-care system comes with greater responsibility and accountability. Nurses are being held to higher standards than ever before. Unfortunately, staff reductions have ended up placing even greater demands on nurses.

Receiving a letter from the New York State Education Department's Office of Professions, setting forth misconduct allegations, usually comes as somewhat of a shock to a nurse. The receipt of a letter notifying a nurse of an impending investigation can elicit a range of emotions. It is normal to be afraid, embarrassed, frustrated and angry-all at the same time. Many nurses are mentally unprepared to receive such a letter.

According to the Nurse Together website, many nurses think about a licensing board only when they are undergoing the process of obtaining their license. While most nurses are rightly concerned about possible malpractice lawsuits, they typically give little thought to acts or omissions that might attract the attention of the Office of Professions. Even though a malpractice lawsuit could impact a nurse's wallet, nurses should also be highly concerned about the impact an Office of Professions investigation could have on their ability to practice their chosen avocation.

Some nurses may think that a "good nurse" never ends up the subject of an investigation. The truth is that a large number of nurses who face an investigation are in fact good nurses who may have made an error of some kind such as failing to document adequately. Other good nurses may be innocent of the charges but still find themselves under scrutiny and forced to defend their license.

There are a wide variety of matters that could be the subject of an investigation. Some examples of potential subjects of an investigation would be: (1) unprofessional conduct; (2) failing to adequately document a patient's condition; (3) substance abuse problems; (4) practicing outside one's authorized scope; and (5) practicing negligently, incompetently or while impaired.

NYSNA Suggestions

Unfortunately, even the most capable and prudent of nurses can become the subject of an investigation by the Office of Professions. According to the New York State Nurses Association, one's future as a nurse is at risk if their license is revoked or they resign their nursing license after getting notice of an investigation.

The NYSNA advises that you should not ignore an investigation in the hope that it may go away on its own. It most probably will not. If you receive notice of an investigation, the NYSNA suggests that you should:

  • Seek the counsel of an attorney with experience in medical professional licensing matters and administrative hearings.
  • Do not talk to or make a written statement to an investigator until you have retained legal counsel.
  • Do not relinquish your license if you are notified that you are under investigation.
  • Request a formal hearing and vigorously contest the charges if you are innocent of what has been alleged against you.

Seek legal counsel

A nursing license is valuable since it enables a nurse to practice their chosen profession. If you are a nurse who has been notified of an investigation initiated by the NY State Education Department's Office of Professions, you should contact a New York attorney with experience in handling licensing matters.