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.
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.