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What happens if someone files a complaint against a nurse?

The Oregon State Board of Nursing is the administrative body that governs certification and licensure requirements for nurses within the state. The body is comprised of Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, a nurse practitioner as well as two members of the public. If you've had a complaint filed against you with the board, you may be wondering what you should expect. How are complaints investigated? What are the disciplinary actions that can be imposed?

Here's a brief overview of the Nursing Board's complaint and investigation process.

Board receives initial complaint

More than half of complaints received by the board are filed by a nurse's employer. Other complaints can be from co-workers, patients or their families or state agencies. However, complaints can also be filed anonymously so it can be hard to say for certain where the allegation originated.

An investigation of the complaint begins

Board investigators will first establish if there is validity to the claim regarding the nurse's conduct. To do so they may review documents, interview co-workers and the employer, analyze patient records, employee files and other measures that they deem appropriate. An investigator will also meet with the nurse if they feel that the complaint has standing. If the investigator believes that the nurse should be disciplined, the Board will consider the investigator's recommendation to determine the appropriate sanctions.

Nearly three-quarters of complaints are resolved without any disciplinary action being taken.

Board provides options for resolution

The Board may request that the nurse sign a stipulated agreement. Upon signing, the nurse acknowledges the facts found in the investigation, the laws that were broken, disciplinary sanctions and terms of the agreement. The Board will then consider the agreement, possibly adopt it and issue a Final Order. The majority of cases are settled through stipulated agreements.

The nurse may also receive a Notice if both parties are unable to reach an agreement. If that occurs, the nurse has the right to request a hearing. Without a request for a hearing, the complaint will be forwarded to the Board as a default. The Board's subsequent decision can be appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals if the nurse in question does not agree with their decision. The nurse may also appeal the decision to the Oregon Supreme Court as a final measure.

Disciplinary sanctions may be imposed

There are a number of disciplinary sanctions that a nurse may face. Such sanctions can include a reprimand, penalty, probation, license suspension or license revocation. The Board may also request that the nurse voluntarily surrender their license or certification.

Because a complaint can threaten a nurse's career, you have the right to speak with a defense attorney regarding your legal options. You've worked hard to get to where you are and you shouldn't let a complaint jeopardize your future. By fighting for your rights, you may be able to protect your license and put the complaint in the past.

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