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Seven Things To Know When You Receive A Notice Of Investigation From The Department Of Health

Board of Nursing Legal Advice


Recently a number of nurses have received in the mail a brochure called “What Every Nurse Needs to Know” published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. It gives advice in response to the question: “What should you do if you are the subject of a complaint?” It advises the nurse to contact the Board of Nursing (BON) immediately in such an event and states that the complaint will be handled in a “fair and appropriate matter.” It advises that a BON representative will describe the investigation process and answer any questions that you may have about an investigation if a complaint is filed against you.

This does not appear to be sound advice and we would warn nurses against following it. Such advice may cause great damage to any defenses you may have, even if you are totally innocent.

Most states, Florida included, do not require you to make any statement to an investigator (or attorney) working on a Board of Nursing complaint, and we recommend that you not do so. In fact, under Florida law, your constitutional right to not make any statement that might help to incriminate you applies to such proceedings. Nurses are often falsely accused of misconduct or wrongdoing by patients, families of patients, employers and rivals. Most states do have adequate procedural safeguards in place that, if used by the nurse, will help to ensure the correct outcome of the matter. However, you must first know what these rights and safeguards are, and then know how to use them to your advantage in such proceedings. Very few attorneys are experienced in such matters and even fewer nurses are.

You should think of the investigation in the same light as a criminal investigation against you if you were wrongfully accused of a crime. In the case of a BON complaint, you can lose your license, lose your career, and be assessed monetary fines in the thousands of dollars. Why would you want to contact the investigator in such a matter and make statements that can later be used against you, if you don’t have to? In most states, Florida included, the burden of proof is on the state to prove every element of the case against you. However, if you make any statements to the investigator (or the attorney for the Board), oral or written, this can be used against you. Even the simplest, most innocuous statements can cause you tremendous difficulty, because anything you say is something the state is no longer required to prove in an investigation or a hearing.

For example, the state may not have an admissible document or a witness who is available at the time who can state that you actually saw or treated the patient. Without being able to prove this, the state may not be able to prove any charge against you. Yet if you make a simple statement that you did treat the patient, the state no longer has to introduce any other proof of this. You have helped the state to prove its case against you without even meaning to do so. You have now made the case against you quicker, easier and less expensive for the state to prove; you may have made the case against you possible to prove when otherwise the state would not have been able to prove it at all.

It has also been our experience that BON representatives do not have the time or resources to answer every question you may have. Furthermore, BON representatives are not able to give you legal advice on what to do. Even if you do speak with an attorney representing the BON, that attorney is not allowed by law to give you legal advice. Remember, the attorney representing the BON works for the state and is similar to a prosecutor. If you were charged with a criminal offense, would you call up the attorney prosecuting you and ask for her or his legal advice on what to do?

If you have nursing malpractice insurance, your professional liability insurance will most probably pay for your legal defense of a complaint filed against you, for a subpoena sent to you or for any deposition you must give. The need for defense of a complaint filed against you with the state licensing agency occurs many times more frequently than the need to defend a nursing malpractice claim or suit. This is the main reason we recommend that every nurse purchase nursing malpractice insurance. It is very inexpensive and usually provides excellent coverage. However, always check to make sure that it will cover your legal expenses in a nursing complaint whether or not it results in a potential malpractice claim. If possible, purchase a rider to raise the limits of such legal defense payments for licensure defense to at least $50,000. If this is not available from this insurer, purchase a second policy.

Most nursing professional liability insurance allows the nurse to select the attorney of his or her choice to defend her or him. This is a very desirable feature to have in a professional liability insurance policy. Otherwise, the insurance company will reserve the right to pick your attorney, whether or not you agree with the choice.

Many nurses make a terrible mistake thinking “I work for a hospital; the hospital insures me.” Or “I work for a nursing home, the nursing home insures me.” This is not correct when it comes to complaints filed with the Board of Nursing. A hospital will have insurance (or will self-insure) to cover itself, not you. A nursing home may have insurance to cover itself, not you. If you have a complaint filed against you with the Board of Nursing, it is very rare that your employer will pay for your legal defense; additionally this will almost never occur if you no longer work for that employer. In many cases, and in most cases we have seen in the past year, it has been the employer hospital or the employer nursing home that has filed the complaint with the Board of Nursing against the nurse. You don’t think the employer is going to pay for your legal defense if it has filed the complaint, do you? In addition, the employer who has filed the complaint, in the vast majority of cases, also fires the nurse. So you may be out of a job as well as no be able to pay for a legal defense of your license.

If your employer obtains an attorney to represent you in a matter, ask the attorney: “Do you work for me or the employer?” Also ask: “If there is a conflict between my defense and the employer’s defense, will you continue to represent me or will you represent the employer?” Ask these questions in writing and get the answer in writing.

Failing to purchase professional liability insurance to protect your license is not very smart given how inexpensive it is. You have worked many years to obtain your professional license. You and your family have spent a great deal of money for your education to achieve it. If you can’t afford a legal defense, you may be forced into accepting a settlement agreement (also referred to sometimes as a “stipulation” or a “plea bargain”) for some type of disciplinary action. Even if you only receive some small disciplinary action, this will be shown on your license forever. It will be reported to national reporting agencies and will prevent many employers, especially the good employers from hiring you. It may even bar you from working in some circumstances. If you have a professional license in another state, it will be reported to the other states and similar disciplinary investigations will be started against you in these other states.

Even if you don’t have insurance that covers your legal defense in an investigation that has been opened against you, please locate and consult with an experienced health lawyer who routinely defends nurses in nursing board cases. Additionally, don’t believe or rely on all of the rumors, gossip and “legal advice” that your colleagues who are not lawyers (or even your lawyers friends who are not experienced health lawyers) will give you. The fee for the legal consultation is worth the price. Make your decisions from a position of experienced knowledge, not one of ignorance or false assumption.

We recommend that if you receive any notice or indication that anyone has filed a complaint against you with the BON or any other licensing agency that you do not contact the BON, its investigators, or any of its representatives. We recommend that you immediately contact an attorney who specializes in defending nurses before the BON. If you are unable to locate one, contact The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA), the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) or your state bar association, by telephone or by visiting their website, and ask for a referral to such an attorney. Be sure to ask the attorney how many similar cases has she or he actually handled before the Board of Nursing.

The foregoing information applies to doctors, dentists, pharmacists, advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNAs), midwives, physician assistants, massage therapists, psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, and all other licensed health professionals; not just to nurses.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNAs), midwives, physician assistants, massage therapists, psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, medical students, residents, interns and all other licensed health professionals, in Florida and also in states other than Florida. In many states we are permitted to represent the health professional in investigations and administrative proceedings.

Please note that this article represents our opinions based on our many years of practice and experience in this area of health law. You may have a different opinion; you are welcome to it. This one is ours.

(Revised April 12, 2011)

(Note: This article is for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice.)

© Copyright George F. Indest III (Board Certified by The Florida Bar in the specialty of Health Law), The Health Law Firm, Altamonte Springs, Florida, 2011. All rights reserved.

State Boards of Nursing


The following is provided for reference purposes only, and is checked as of 4/23/2011. Please check and verify the information before relying upon it.

Alabama Board of Nursing
770 Washington Avenue
RSA Plaza
Suite 250
Montgomery, AL 36130-3900
Phone: (334) 242-4060
Fax: (334) 242-4360
E-mail: [email protected]

Alaska Board of Nursing
550 West Seventh Avenue
Suite 1500
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3567
Phone: (907) 269-8161
Fax: (907) 269-8196
E-mail: [email protected]

American Samoa Health Services
American Samoa Health Services Regulatory Board
LBJ Tropical Medical Center
Pago Pago, AS 96799
Phone: (684) 633-1222
Fax: (684) 633-1869

Arizona State Board of Nursing
4747 N. 7th Street
Suite 200
Phoenix, AZ 85014-3653
Phone: (602) 889-5150
Fax: (602) 889-5155
E-mail: [email protected]

Arkansas State Board of Nursing
University Tower Building
1123 S. University
Suite 800
Little Rock, AR 72204-1619
Phone: (501) 686-2700
Fax: (501) 686-2714
E-mail: [email protected]

California Board of Registered Nursing
1625 N. Market Blvd.
Suite N-217
Sacramento, CA 95834-1924
Phone: (916) 322-3350
Fax: (916) 574-8637

Colorado Board of Nursing
1560 Broadway, Suite 880
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (303) 894-2430
Fax: (303) 894-2821
E-mail: [email protected]

Connecticut Board of Examiners for Nursing
Dept. of Public Health
410 Capitol Avenue, MS# 13PHO
P.O. Box 340308
Hartford, CT 06134-0328
Phone: (860) 509-7624
Fax: (860) 509-7553
E-mail: [email protected]

Delaware Board of Nursing
861 Silver Lake Blvd.
Cannon Building
Suite 203
Dover, DE 19904
Phone: (302) 739-4522
Fax: (302) 739-2711

District of Columbia Board of Nursing
Department of Health
717 14th Street, N.W.
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 724-4900
Fax: (202) 727-8241

Florida Board of Nursing
4052 Bald Cypress Way
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3252
Phone: (850) 245-4125
Fax: (850) 245-4172

Georgia State Board of Licensed Practical Nurses
237 Coliseum Drive
Macon, GA 31217-3858
Phone: (478) 207-1640
Fax: (478) 207-1633

Georgia Board of Nursing
237 Coliseum Drive
Macon, GA 31217-3858
Phone: (478) 207-1640
Fax: (478) 207-1660

Guam Board of Nurse Examiners
Post Office Box 2816
Agana, GU 96910
Phone: (671) 475-0251
Fax: (671) 477-4733

Hawaii Board of Nursing
King Kalakaua Building
335 Merchant Street
3rd Floor
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 586-3000
Fax: (808) 586-2689
E-mail: [email protected]

Idaho Board of Nursing
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720
Physical Address:
280 N. 8th Street
Suite 210
Boise, ID 83720
Phone: (208) 334-3110
Fax: (208) 334-3262

Illinois Department of Professional Regulation
James R. Thompson Center
100 West Randolph
Suite 9-300
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-2715
Fax: (312) 814-3145

Indiana State Board of Nursing
Professional Licensing Agency
402 W. Washington Street
Room W072
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 234-2043
Fax: (317) 233-4236
E-mail: [email protected]

Iowa Board of Nursing
RiverPoint Business Park
400 S.W. 8th Street
Suite B
Des Moines, IA 50309-4685
Phone: (515) 281-3255
Fax: (515) 281-4825

Kansas State Board of Nursing
Landon State Office Building
900 S.W. Jackson, Suite 1051
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: (785) 296-4929
Fax: (785) 296-3929

Kentucky Board of Nursing
312 Whittington Parkway
Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40222
Phone: (502) 429-3300
Fax: (502) 429-3311

Louisiana State Board of Nursing
5207 Essen Lane, Suite 6
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70809
Phone: (225) 763-3570
Fax: (225) 763-3580

Maine State Board of Nursing
158 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 287-1133
Fax: (207) 287-1149

Maryland Board of Nursing
4140 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215
Phone: (410) 585-1900
Fax: (410) 358-3530

Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
239 Causeway Street, Second Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (617) 973-0800
Fax: (617) 973-0984

Michigan/DCH/Bureau of Health Professions
Ottawa Towers North
611 W. Ottawa, 1st Floor
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 335-0918
Fax: (517) 373-2179

Minnesota Board of Nursing
2829 University Avenue S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Phone: (612) 617-2270
Fax: (612) 617-2190
E-mail: [email protected]

Mississippi Board of Nursing
1935 Lakeland Drive, Suite B
Jackson, MS 39216-5014
Phone: (601) 987-4188
Fax: (601) 364-2352

Missouri State Board of Nursing
3605 Missouri Blvd.
P.O. Box 656
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0656
Phone: (573) 751-0681
Fax: (573) 751-0075
E-mail: [email protected]

Montana State Board of Nursing
301 South Park
PO Box 200513
Helena, MT 59620-0513
Phone: (406) 841-2340
Fax: (406) 841-2305

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Regulation and Licensure
Nursing and Nursing Support
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509-4986
Phone: (402) 471-4376
Fax: (402) 471-1066
E-mail: [email protected]

Nevada State Board of Nursing
5011 Meadowood Mall #201
Reno, NV 89502-6547
Phone: (775) 688-2620
Fax: (775) 688-2628
E-mail: [email protected]

New Hampshire Board of Nursing
21 South Fruit Street
Suite 16
Concord, NH 03301-2341
Phone: (603) 271-2323
Fax: (603) 271-6605
E-mail: [email protected]

New Jersey Board of Nursing
P.O. Box 45010
124 Halsey Street, 6th Floor
Newark, NJ 07101
Phone: (973) 504-6586
Fax: (973) 648-3481

New Mexico Board of Nursing
6301 Indian School Road, NE
Suite 710
Albuquerque, NM 87110
Phone: (505) 841-8340
Fax: (505) 841-8347

New York State Board of Nursing
Education Bldg.
89 Washington Avenue
2nd Floor West Wing
Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 474-3817
Fax: (518) 474-3706
E-mail: [email protected]

North Carolina Board of Nursing
3724 National Drive
Suite 201
Raleigh, NC 27602
Phone: (919) 782-3211
Fax: (919) 781-9461

North Dakota Board of Nursing
919 South 7th Street, Suite 504
Bismarck, ND 58504
Phone: (701) 328-9777
Fax: (701) 328-9785

Northern Mariana Islands
Commonwealth Board of Nurse Examiners
PO BOX 501458
Saipan, MP 96950
Phone: (670) 664-4812
Fax: (670) 664-4813

Ohio Board of Nursing
17 South High Street
Suite 400
Columbus, OH 43215-3413
Phone: (614) 466-3947
Fax: (614) 466-0388

Oklahoma Board of Nursing
2915 N. Classen Boulevard
Suite 524
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
Phone: (405) 962-1800
Fax: (405) 962-1821
E-mail: [email protected]

Oregon State Board of Nursing
800 N.E. Oregon Street, Box 25
Suite 465
Portland, OR 97232
Phone: (971) 673-0685
Fax: (971) 673-0684
E-mail: [email protected]

Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing
P.O. 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649
Phone: (717) 783-7142
Fax: (717) 783-0822
E-mail: [email protected]

Puerto Rico
Board of Nurse Examiners
800 Roberto H. Todd Ave.
Room 202, Stop 18
Santurce, PR 00908
Phone: (787) 725-7506
Fax: (787) 725-7903

Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education
105 Cannon Building
Three Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908
Phone: (401) 222-5700
Fax: (401) 222-3352

South Carolina State Board of Nursing
110 Centerview Drive
Suite 202
Columbia, SC 29210
Mailing Address:
Post Office Box 12367
Columbia, S.C. 29211-2367
Phone: (803) 896-4550
Fax: (803) 896-4525

South Dakota Board of Nursing
4305 South Louise Ave.
Suite 201
Sioux Falls, SD 57106-3115
Phone: (605) 362-2760
Fax: (605) 362-2768

Tennessee State Board of Nursing
425 Fifth Avenue North
1st Floor – Cordell Hull Building
Nashville, TN 37247
Phone: (615) 532-5166
Fax: (615) 741-7899
E-mail: [email protected]

Texas Board of Nurse Examiners
333 Guadalupe, Suite 3-460
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: (512) 305-7400
Fax: (512) 305-7401
E-mail: [email protected]

Utah State Board of Nursing
Heber M. Wells Bldg., 4th Floor
160 East 300 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Phone: (801) 530-6628
Fax: (801) 530-6511

Vermont State Board of Nursing
81 River Street
Heritage Building
Montpelier, VT 05609-1106
Phone: (802) 828-2396
Fax: (802) 828-2484
E-mail: [email protected]

Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure
Veterans Drive Station
St. Thomas, VI 00803
Phone: (340) 776-7397
Fax: (340) 777-4003

Virginia Board of Nursing
6603 West Broad Street
5th Floor
Richmond, VA 23230-1712
Phone: (804)662-9909
Fax: (804) 662-9512
E-mail: [email protected]

Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission
Department of Health
310 Israel Rd., S.E.
Tumwater, WA 98501-7864
Phone: (360) 236-4700
Fax: (360) 236-4738

West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Nurses
101 Dee Drive
Charleston, WV 25311
Phone: (304) 558-3596
Fax: (304) 558-3666
E-mail: [email protected]

Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing
1400 E. Washington Ave.
Room 173
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (608) 266-0145
Fax: (608) 261-7083
E-mail: [email protected]

Wyoming State Board of Nursing
1810 Pioneer Avenue
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002
Phone: (307) 777-7601
Fax: (307) 777-3519
E-mail: [email protected]

(revised 4/23/2011)


This is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always check for the latest revisions.

George F. Indest III, Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714. Phone: (407) 331-6620.