Michael C. Hennenberg

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Help! I'm being investigated by the nursing board

It's every nurse's living nightmare — being investigated by the Board of Nursing. But don't be too quick to hang up your stethoscope. Just because a complaint has been lodged against you does not automatically mean that it is valid.

If you or your specific actions are under investigation, you need to be fully aware of the circumstances and how you present yourself at all times when dealing with this matter. Below are some tips to help you navigate the situation.

They are not your friends

Members of the Ohio Board of Nursing should be civil and professional in all of their dealings. As such, the board members may appear friendly or helpful. But under no circumstances should you ever assume that they are your friends or "on your side" in a dispute.

They are not. They are tasked with the important duty of protecting the public from the unprofessional actions of impaired or negligent nurses.

Take all investigations seriously

If you find out that you are under investigation, it's serious. Since meritless complaints are usually dismissed prior to being elevated to an investigative level, you can assume that at least some members of the Board are concerned that your actions or inactions fell short of the duty of care.

Ignoring it won't make it go away

Being overconfident that a complaint will be dismissed and failing to take action to present your side are cornerstones of disaster. You need to be proactive now and seek competent legal counsel with experience defending professional licensure cases.

If you are truly innocent, you may believe this will be borne out in the investigation. That's naive at best. When your ability to earn a living in your chosen field hangs in the balance, it's foolish to assume that all will be well. You should remain optimistic while simultaneously working hard to retain your license.

Allow counsel to weigh in

When you receive the letter from the Board informing you that you are under investigation, your first impulse might be to fire off a response to the inquiry. Resist this at all costs.

Instead, take a moment to calm yourself. Go for a walk, meditate, take some deep breaths. When your equilibrium returns, call your attorney and schedule an appointment. Ideally, it should be your attorney who responds to the letter. Failing that, at least let them review and approve your response before mailing it.

Never attempt to engage the complainant

It's human nature to want to fix the problem that led to the complaint being filed with the Board. You may feel sure that by reaching out to the complainant you could explain your actions and the reasons behind it sufficiently to clear the whole thing up.

This is a sure recipe for disaster. Not only could you potentially make your situation worse, you could be perceived as harassing or intimidating the complainant into withdrawing their legitimate complaint against you. You will not fare well taking this approach. Leave it to your attorney to defend you and your actions.

Keep it in perspective

A single complaint to the Board of Nurses over a long and credible nursing career can be successfully managed. By working together with your attorney, you can get through this and emerge with your nursing license intact.

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Mayfield Heights
Cleveland, OH 44124

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