Being under investigation by the board of nursing is a stressful situation for any nurse practitioner to be in, even if the claim is unsubstantiated and is likely to be dismissed. Unfortunately, the BONs claims resolution process can take months, leaving you with plenty of time to mull over your next steps in response to the notice of investigation. Having a good understanding the legal side of investigations can be beneficial in easing your worries; still, troublesome thoughts and questions may consume you while in limbo. So just how should you respond when you’re under investigation by the BON?
Should I tell my boss?
Although it varies from state to state, most investigations are confidential and are not released to the public. Because of this, most employers are not made aware of an investigation unless they are otherwise notified by the employee or if the investigator reaches out to the employer directly for assistance during the investigation. That said, employment contracts, hospital bylaws and/or employer policies may require that nurse practitioners report an investigation to the employer; so be mindful of this and comply accordingly when deciding whether or not you should inform your employer. Although your employer may not have a policy in place that requires you to report an investigation, it is in your best interest to report it so as to control the flow of information as well as ensure that your employer learns about the investigation from you, rather than a second hand source.
Should I hire an attorney?
Throughout the claims process, all nurses are advised by the board of their right to due process; which means not only that the nurse be informed of the allegation by the board, but that he or she will have the opportunity to respond and defend themselves against the claim. Due process also gives the nurse the right to hire an attorney at his or her own expense and the right to appeal a board decision once one has been made. An attorney can represent you in whatever steps the board takes after they’ve notified you of the investigation, including advising you in your response to the allegations. Hiring an attorney is your right and doing so will give you peace of mind while you wait for the outcome of the investigation. An attorney can also help you decide whether you must legally report the investigation to your employer and the best method for doing so.
Can I continue to practice while under investigation?
Unless the board has suspended your license pending the outcome of the investigation, your license will remain valid and unencumbered until you’ve either agreed to discipline or discipline has been imposed as the result of a hearing that otherwise restricts your practice. If you’re not safe to practice due to addiction, substance abuse, or other condition that would hinder safe practices, you should not continue to practice as the risk of harming a patient is far too great.
What can I do to avoid a claim?
Nurse practitioners have a responsibility to know and understand the regulations and laws in the state that govern their practice. It’s important that you understand what your scope of practice is as a NP as well as what is considered outside of your scope of practice. Always document thoroughly, accurately and appropriately for every patient you treat; particularly when you’re writing prescriptions.
Remember, an investigation into your license does not mean that you’ve done anything wrong. Understanding the legal process with your state’s board will give you a better idea of what to expect and may even put your mind at ease in the event of a claim. Currently, the rate of discipline on a license is less than one percent according to the NCSBN, so don’t panic. If you made a mistake that led to the investigation, be proactive in ensuring you don’t make the same mistake twice. Take steps to improve your practice to ensure you’re the best nurse practitioner you can be.