The Do's and Don'ts of Appearing Before the Texas Board of Nursing (BON)
You've worked for years to become a vocational nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner in Texas. Ignoring a board of nursing complaint that has been lodged against you, regardless of whether it has any merit, could severely jeopardize your career and livelihood.
What should you DO if you receive a notice of investigation in the mail?
RETAIN EXPERIENCED COUNSEL
Hiring an experienced attorney does not indicate to the Board of Nursing (BON) that you committed any action alleged in the complaint letter. Rather, it demonstrates to the Board that you are taking the complaint seriously, and that you are prepared to fight for your professional license. Please remember that the cost of a lawyer to guide you through the board review process is much less than the fines you may face if the BON finds the complaint against you meritorious.
You should wear business professional attire for any hearing before the Board of Nursing. For men, wear a pressed suit, tie and, well-polished shoes. For women, a neat business suit, hose, and well-polished shoes.
You must be willing to admit to any error that you committed. The BON will be more lenient if you acknowledge that you did not demonstrate your best efforts during these instances. By contrast, some complaints will lack merit, and you will insist that you made proper decisions and issued standard care. In these situations, you must demonstrate to the BON that you are open-minded and willing to consider other ways that you could have approached the same situation in the future. Of course, your counsel should be very careful when advising you to testify about matters that may be self-incriminating or self-indicting.
Documentary evidence is often the most persuasive type of evidence the Board will consider. Provide your attorney with all the documentation related to your complaint, and make sure you both know its every detail. A solid paper trail that supports your side of the story is one of your strongest weapons.
ACCEPT THE PANEL'S DECISION
If the Board Panel deems the complaint meritorious, it will recommend some level of punishment. You then will have the opportunity to accept the punishment or appeal the Panel's decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). If you appeal the decision, an administrative law judge will be assigned to your case and a more formal trial system will take over.
IGNORE NOTICES FROM THE BOARD OF NURSING
When you receive a written notice of an investigation, you will have twenty (20) days to respond. Make sure you respond within the timeframe. Pretending that a complaint against you does not exist is not a prudent way to assert your innocence. No one on the BON is going to think, "This nurse will not even dignify us with a response. I guess we were way off base to think that these complaints could be true! We will just have to close the case."
CIRCUMVENT THE CHAIN OF COMMAND
Think twice about circumventing any procedure established by law. Do not contact politicians, lobbyists, or other non-lawyers to influence the outcome of your hearing. Advocate strongly for your position, but do so within the legal system. Utilize your Board of Nursing Defense lawyer.
RELY ON YOUR ATTORNEY TO SPEAK FOR YOU
The Board members want most of the discussion to come directly from you. Therefore, you must be thoroughly prepared on the facts of the complaint. You will be given the opportunity to present your version of the events in a light most favorably to you, and the chance to refute allegations asserted by the complaint. If you consistently defer to your Board of Nursing Defense attorney, the BON will question your confidence in your actions.
CLAIM IGNORANCE OF YOUR JOB RESPONSIBILITIES
You want to assure the Board that even though you are an expert in your field who properly treats patients, you are willing to learn about more effective ways to practice medicine. For this reason, admitting a mistake is far preferable to pleading ignorance. The BON does not want a medical professional who does not understand how to perform duties correctly and is unwilling to learn.
While no nursing professional wants to be brought before a review, it happens to many. If you find that a complaint has been made against you, you must take every step possible to insure the best outcome. Your license, livelihood, and reputation as a nurse may be at stake.
By knowing what to expect before a board notice ever arrives in the mail, you are taking the first step to reaching a pleasant resolution to the complaint process.
Attorney Tony R. Bertolino is the Managing Partner of Bertolino LLP. The law firm has been able to help licensed professionals across the State of Texas through our offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. If you or anyone you know is facing a Texas Board of Nursing complaint and needs an experienced professional license defense lawyer, contact Bertolino LLP today!