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Can nurses keep working if they are accused of misconduct?

The Texas Board of Nursing (BON) is responsible for regulating the safe practice of nursing in Texas. Part of this role involves investigating complaints against a nurse. The BON receives thousands of these types of complaints every year. Some are dismissed without merit while others may move forward and require further investigation. Depending on the results of the investigation, the nurse could face various penalties ranging from a reprimand or fine to the loss of their professional license.

But what happens during that investigation? What exactly can a nurse do while under investigation — are they allowed to continue in their profession, or do they have to step aside and wait for the results?

Step 1: The complaint

The BON follows a detailed timeline to resolve these matters. The first thing that happens is the complaint. The BON can receive a complaint about a nurse’s practice from anyone including other nurses, patients, patient’s family members, or their employer.

Step 2: The investigation

A trained investigator may interview witnesses as well as review any court or police documents if present. They may also conduct site visits and review the nurse’s medical records. The nurse then has an opportunity to respond. It is important to note that the nurse has the right to due process, or to have the allegations clearly presented and get a chance to respond. The BON should resolve the matter through use of a fair and impartial resolution process.

If the investigation does not yield evidence to support the claim, the BON will likely close the case. If evidence is present, the BON will move forward through the complaint resolution process. This can vary by state. If you do not agree with the resolution, you can move forward with an appeal.

Nurses can generally continue to practice during this time, unless the BON specifically states otherwise. Nurses are wise to reach out to legal counsel when they receive notification of a complaint or an impending investigation. An attorney experienced in this niche area of healthcare law can help to better ensure your nursing license and rights are protected throughout the process.

Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication