For health care providers, patient complaints can be not only disheartening to one’s professional confidence, but also a source of trouble if the complaint involves allegations of professional misconduct. Understanding the complaint and investigation process, and one’s due process rights, allow a nursing professional to have the best shot at a favorable outcome in the case.
The disciplinary process begins when a complaint is filed. Complaints are allegations that a providers has engaged in professional misconduct. Complaints which don’t result in disciplinary action are supposed to remain confidential, while disciplinary action is public.
In New York, the Board of Regents is responsible for handling professional licensing and regulation, including disciplinary of nursing professionals. Under the board’s direction, the State Education Department regulates professionals through the Office of the Professions, with the assistance of State Boards for the Professions. Professional misconduct is both investigated and prosecuted by the Office of the Professions, while the Board of Regents has the responsibility of reaching a final decision with regard to disciplinary matters. Regional offices investigate complaints in cooperation with members of the State Board of Nursing.
If an investigation reveals that there is substantial evidence of misconduct, the Office of the Professions will pursue disciplinary action. Typically, minor misconduct is addressed by administrative warnings or advisory letters, which are both handled confidentially. If the misconduct is more serious, a nursing professional could face a fine or license suspension or revocation. Usually, nurses who have had their license revoked must wait at least three years before applying for reinstatement. If a nurse’s license is not revoked or suspended, the Office of Professions may place the nurse on probation with conditions that must be fulfilled.
For nursing professionals, protecting their license to practice is critical to upholding their livelihood. When a nurse comes under investigation for professional misconduct, effectively navigating the process with the help of an experienced attorney can help increase the chances of a favorable outcome.