Open/Close Menu Keith Liberman, Attorney & Counselor at Law
Hard to write a statement

The Board of Nursing  sent you a letter.  A complaint  was made on your Nursing License. You must submit a notarized written statement in 30 days.  This post explains why you need the help of a Nursing License Defense Lawyer.

How Much Should A Nurse Say in the Written Statement?

Think long and hard about your writing. Your livelihood is on the line.   Read the complaint carefully.  Respond only to the specific violation(s).  Frequently the complaint offers few details. For instance, there might not be a date of the alleged nurse misconduct.  Or, your complaint may reference incidents from months before you were terminated, which you don’t recall. Your complaint might be “not timely charting meds”, without a date or patient name. Here are tips for you.

Don’t write too much

Many nurses  vividly recall the incident leading to the complaint. They can’t stop thinking about it.  Because the complaint angers them, the nurse  must tell his or her side of the story.  Okay. Write it all down. Every detail you recall.  Your memory is better now that it will be next month.  Also, this helps you sort your thoughts.  Now, edit the statement.  Strike out each sentence that does not answer the complaint.  Delete any mentions of other possible  Nursing Practice Act  violations.  Example: You are accused of abandoning a patient. Don’t write that this is common hospital practice. The investigator will ask you about other times you abandoned a patient or, the names of other nurses who do.

Do express remorse about the incident.  In fact, remorse is an important part of the written statement. Most of the time.  Here is another example: a patient files a complaint, accusing you of charging too much for home visits.  You don’t set fees.  The complaint states no Nursing Practice violation. No remorse necessary in this case. Just an unhappy patient.

If you write a long answer,  not focused on the complaint,  beware of this pitfall:  Don’t unintentionally contradict yourself.  Many nurses  gave a statement to H.R. before termination. Consequently, the investigator will have that.  If your  statement  differs in many minor details, you might be accused of lying.  Don’t write too much!

When NOT to make a written statement

Criminal complaints are the single highest category filed against nurses in Missouri’s fiscal year 2020.  In fact, 31% of all complaints fall in this category. Your written response involving  alcohol/drug violations must be done carefully. If you admit  a criminal act, you invite criminal problems.

The investigator could alert law enforcement, and as a result, a detective starts a criminal investigation.  Obviously, possessing unprescribed controlled substances is a felony.  Stealing or diverting  meds is a crime, narcotic or otherwise.  Taking hospital property, such as syringes or vials home without permission is stealing. Use your Fifth Amendment Right, remain silent.  Losing your nursing license stinks, but prison is worse.

Heed your lawyer’s advice.  Let your lawyer  take  heat from the Board  when you refuse a written statement. I have handled many criminal cases over the years, and know the subtleties of editing your written statement.  If you have already been contacted by a detective, do not write your statement to the Board without consulting  a criminal lawyer.

[Alcohol and controlled substance complaints rank second in the  disciplinary category for Missouri nurses in fiscal year 2020. This includes abuse at your employer’s facility, but also outside of work, such as DWI. See my post on substance abuse complaints.]

Consistency is key in written and oral statements

Write consistently with your previous statements, as well as within your statement. Don’t contradict one paragraph with another.  Remember, some investigators will want to pursue  an oral interview following the written statement.   Investigators in Eastern Missouri frequently seek an oral interview.

Your written and oral statements must match.  Several “minor” inconsistencies   undermine the truthfulness of both statements. Avoid writing sentences which do not specifically address the complaint. The Board sent you a list of questions  with your complaint notice. Not all of them may apply, but try writing answers for all of them. Then, sleep on it.  Review  your statement the next day.  Decide to edit or submit. I have additional questions which, in my experience with the Board and its Investigators, will be useful depending on which category complaint you have.

In Sum

Do not submit your written statement without legal advice. Even if you are a nurse-lawyer, hire another lawyer. You need an attorney who:

1. Is experienced with the Missouri Board of Nursing,  and The Missouri Nursing Practice Act, and Administrative Law;

2.  Has represented criminal  clients; and

3.  Is a great writer.

Although I have practiced criminal law for decades, now  the largest part of my practice is defending nurses.  I wrote a monthly column on legal ethics for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.  I will  defend  you against a nursing Board complaint.  Contact me now.


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