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How can I protect my nursing license in North Carolina?

Nurses are an integral part of the medical profession who must pass rigorous licensing exams after obtaining the appropriate degree. A nurse’s job is trying, difficult, important but, most notably, rewarding. The North Carolina Assembly enacted sections 90-171.20 through 90-171.48 and created the nursing licensure requirement. NC General Statute 90-171.43 & 21 NCAC 36 .0217 establish rules of professional conduct for nurses and penalties for practicing without a nursing license. Physicians and hospitals would be missing a crucial part of the medical system without nurses.  Below is some of what you need to know to protect your nursing license.

What do I do if I have received an investigation notice from the NC Board of Nursing?

For starters, do not panic. You should carefully read any and all correspondence from the Board of Nursing. If you received an investigation notice, first contact your malpractice insurer or your employer. Your employer may have malpractice insurance that covers you if you do not have your own. Note that the insurance company is only going to protect you and your employer from a potential civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit may not even happen, but alerting your insurer or employer early is the best strategy.

If the Board issues formal charges after the conclusion of the investigation you should read the charges carefully. Make sure you respond to the Letter of Charges timely so you can have a settlement hearing and/or contested hearing. Now, you do not actually have to have the hearing if you don’t wish to, but you want to keep your options open. To do so you need to exercise your right to a hearing as soon as you can.

Can I participate in the investigative process?

Yes, nurses that are being investigated by the Board for violation of an ethics rule can participate in the investigation. That can be done by submitting a written statement or participating in an interview. A nurse under investigation has a right to hire an attorney. The attorney can be at any meeting between an investigator and nurse. Also, a nurse has a right to review any investigation documents. If formal charges are issued, then a nurse may obtain copies upon proper request. If formal charges are not issued, a nurse can obtain those documents, but must make an appointment with the Board. The Board will issue a proposed order which includes an offer of disciplinary action.

What happens after I request a contested hearing with the Board of Nursing?

A settlement hearing is offered to anyone that requested a contested hearing. This means you will have an opportunity to resolve the complaint in front of a few representatives of the board. The Board will then give you a new proposed order which includes disciplinary action towards the nurse. This is going to be the second time the nurse has an offer to resolve their matter. The settlement hearing may result in the Board offering the same penalties as they did previously.

Should I attend a Settlement Conference?

Potentially, but you want to make sure that you do not offer testimony or evidence to the Board that is harmful to your case. You do not have to speak with anyone from the nursing board about your case. In some circumstances it may be recommended to not offer any statements or documents to the Board. Some investigators or attorneys that represent licensing boards are pushy. Remember, do not rush to get this resolved as you will have opportunities to get this resolved or have a hearing. Nurses may continue to work while the Board investigates any allegations. Every situation is different which is why it is important to get an attorney involved as early in the process as possible. After all, your main concern is to protect your nursing license.

This information is not intended to be legal advice and does not establish the attorney-client relationship. Learn more about our firm by clicking here.

1 Comment

  1. During my 20+ years of medical practice, I was disappointed to watch as many excellent nurses were bounced from the profession by the NC Board of Nursing. The most glaring examples were those involving substance abuse. There is generally a “two strikes” attitude, whereas physicians, dentists, and other professionals are treated more in keeping with recommendations of substance abuse experts. My firm advice to any nurse who gets a notice from the Nursing Board: GET LEGAL REPRESENTATION.

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