How to Protect Your License to Practice
As a nurse, you likely understand the need to protect your license against claims related to patient care. But did you know you should take similar action to defend your license against complaints made to your state Board of Nursing (BON)?
With BON complaints, the event may not even be related to patient care. Your state’s Nurse Practice Act (NPA) may include a moral character component, which means the BON can require the nurse to report certain violations, including misdemeanors and even take action for misbehavior, such as a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs or driving while intoxicated (DWI), use of illicit drugs, or failure to pay child support. Such an action can have far reaching and negative effects, not only on the nurses themselves, but also on those who depend on the nurse for safe, competent care.
Analysis of RN License Defense Claims
According to the National Practitioner Data Bank1 (2018), there were 14,902 complaints filed against registered nurses’ licenses in the U.S. compared to 258 malpractice claims in 2017. That’s 58 times more licensing complaints than malpractice claims.
Further, a claims analysis from Nurses Service Organization and CNA2 (NSO & CNA, 2015) showed that the average cost of a license protection claim is $3,988. Payment reflects the cost of legal representation in defending nurses from BON actions.
How to Reduce the Likelihood of a License Complaint
You can take steps inside and outside of the workplace to protect your professional license. Taking these steps will help to ensure that you can continue to practice as a registered nurse.
Developing effective communication skills is the most important step you can take to protect your license.
Use Social Media with Caution
Social media is great way to connect with family and friends, but, as a nurse, you need to be cautious. BONs might investigate for one reason, and have your situation made worse by comments you made on Facebook, Twitter or in a text message.
Keep a Record
Document consistently and in detail. Note your discussions with patients regarding their treatment on the patient’s chart. Also, keep evidence of your competency, professionalism, and public service.
Understand your State’s NPA
When you are practicing as a nurse, you are responsible for understanding what is contained in your state’s NPA.
When a Board Takes Action
If you are notified by your state’s BON that an investigation is being initiated, immediately contact your malpractice insurance provider and retain an attorney. Your attorney will assist you in responding promptly to any requests from the BON during the investigation.
At the end of the investigation, the BON will decide whether to take further action. If disciplinary action is chosen, possible outcomes include a consent agreement, settlement, or stipulation; an informal settlement conference; or a formal hearing.
As a licensed nurse you will want to protect the most important asset you have achieved: your license to practice professional nursing.
This risk management information was provided by Nurses Service Organization (NSO), the nation's largest provider of nurses’ professional liability insurance coverage for over 550,000 nurses since 1976. The professional liability insurance policy is administered through NSO and underwritten by American Casualty Company of Reading, Pennsylvania, a CNA company. Reproduction without permission of the publisher is prohibited. For questions, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-247-1500. www.nso.com.
Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, Risk Manager, Nurses Service Organization (NSO)