I recently learned of a nurse that was fired from her job. Allegedly, she was blamed for the mistreatment of a patient that her employer believed fell below professional nursing standards. I was told she not only lost her job and source of income but also the close interaction with a circle of friends and colleagues with whom she had worked for many years. Shortly thereafter, she took her own life as a result this change of events, leaving behind a grief-stricken family.
From what I gathered, the apparent misconduct did not even originate with her! But this article is not about whether this nurse did something wrong. It’s about how you can deal with accusations of misconduct and overcome the fear, anxiety and stress when your professional conduct is questioned, and either your employer, the Board, or both move to take action against you.
Over the past 26 years, I’ve had the opportunity to represent all kinds of clients with all kinds of backgrounds. But I can say unequivocally that the most impressive group of clients I have ever represented in my career are nurses. You all work so hard at your jobs, you are kind and caring, you are nurturing and patient and you take pride in the care you provide. I’ve never had a nicer, more compassionate set of clients. It is truly a pleasure to represent nurses!
When nurses come in to see me, most of them are a nervous wreck. And who wouldn’t be? Many of you just lost you job, or had to take leave, or quit because the pressure was just too much. Most of you received a frightening letter of investigation/complain in the mail from the Nevada State Board of Nursing.
For those of you who have lost your job or are in fear of losing it due to a possible violation of one kind or another, remember this: nurses are in high demand in Nevada, and all over the country. There’s a good chance someone else out there wants to hire you.
If you received a letter from the Nevada State Board of Nursing (NSBN), this is not cause to panic. Most nurses fear the worst. For example, some investigations actually end with a finding of no fault. Most violations can be handled short of a suspension or revocation of your license.
Here are some basic steps to dealing with crises at work or with your license:
- Stay calm and try to relax; take deep breaths, take a bath, watch a movie. Chill out until you can reach out for help
- BE PROACTIVE! Rather than curling up in the fetal position, ignoring the letter, going on a binge or doing harm to yourself, seek professional help from someone like me. Delay will only gnaw at you.
- Act as quickly as possible. Let me give you some reasons why you should seek the help of an attorney right away: (1) we can tell you, based on our experience, if you have a big problem, a typical problem, a minor problem or perhaps no problem at all. You’re better off knowing right away, because knowing will reduce the fear of the unknown, which can eat you up inside; (2) if you don’t respond the letter you receive, you might start getting phone calls from the investigators or other staff members on the Board. Without an attorney, you have no buffer and you have to talk to them directly, greatly increasing your stress; (3) once you have an attorney representing, the board is required to go through your attorney for all communications. Think of the stress this will remove as you wonder what you should say or not say; and (4) if a written response is due, we’ll advise you how to respond.These are just some of the IMMEDIATE reasons that you should talk to an attorney right away and not delay. At my office, the first consultation is always free, so you can also avoid the worry of having to pay me when you come to pour out your heart. We’ll discuss the fee, and if you decide to hire me, then I can begin to protect you and your license as best I can. All communications are confidential, too.
- Write down on paper what happened and why. Get it out of your system; write it for yourself, but also for the attorney with whom you are going to consult.
- If you lost your job already, start looking right away. This is an important part of being proactive. Typically, you are not under any restrictions to find employment right away. You are “innocent” until proven guilty. There are exceptions, but in my experience there is very little chance of any restrictions until the Board has thoroughly evaluated your case and come to a decision.
Remember, the Board’s primary concern is to keep the public safe, and if they can do that without taking your license, they will do so. The key (a big part of what we do) is to try and find a balance between the safety of the public and your right to earn a living using the skills you studied and worked so hard to develop.