Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Discusses Ethical Complaints Against Nurses

Missouri’s legislature enacted the Nurse Practice Act (“the Act”) designed to govern the practice of nursing in Missouri. The Act entrusts licensing and discipline of nurses to the Missouri State Board of Nursing (“the Board”).  The Missouri Legislature gave the Board rule-making authority, which authorizes the Board to pass regulations for the profession. Consequently, the Board issued regulations establishing the ethical responsibilities and minimum practice requirements for nurses. Additionally, the regulations establish the complaint procedure for alleged ethical violations. The regulations also establish the minimum educational, character, and ethical obligations for both registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sangerng understands that nurses are vital components of our health care system and a responsible for delivering a high standard of care to their patients.

The regulations issued by the Board prescribe the proper procedure for filing a complaint against a nurse for an ethical violation.  The regulations permit only complaints against nurses to be filed if there is evidence to investigate misconduct. Individuals who learn of or witness unethical behavior committed by a nurse are encouraged to notify the nurse and the administration of the medical facility as soon as possible to allow the facility to rectify the situation and immediately correct the nurse’s behavior.  Reporting unethical behavior to the facility also serves as an alternate dispute resolution process which has the potential to informally discipline the nurse while serving to correct the offending behaviors.

The Board received complaints filed against a nurse. The regulations establish a clear and concise procedure to investigate the allegations.  The Board has a gatekeeping obligation to screen out complaints which fail to allege a violation of the Act and also provide sufficient information to commence an investigation.  Anyone may file a complaint with the Board alleging misconduct.  The complaint must be in writing and may be on a form prescribed by the Board. The complaint and any information gathered as a result of the investigation is not a public record. The Board must notify the complainant in writing of receipt of the complaint, and the Board must also notify the complainant if the Board dismisses the complaint or, if not dismissed, the disposition of the complaint.  If the Board finds sufficient information to warrant a disciplinary action, then the Board will file a formal complaint with the Missouri Administrative Hearings Commission.

The regulations impose a duty upon certain health care organizations to report unethical behavior to the Board.  Hospitals, surgical centers, and nurse staffing agencies are mandatory reporters to the Board. Those agencies must report any disciplinary action taken by these agencies against a nurse. The agencies must also report any voluntary resignation by the nurse in the face of discipline or any reports of misconduct pending before the health care facility.  In this context, disciplinary action is any final action taken by the board of the listed agencies to discipline, reprimand, or restrict the practice of the nurse in a meaningful way.  However, disciplinary actions will be considered by the Board only if the actions complained of are also violations of the ethical rules and would warrant disciplinary action by the Board. The complaint in filed by a mandatory reporting agency must be filed within 15 days of the date of the disciplinary action.  Also, the complaint must be in writing and include specific facts which set forth the allegations.   Notwithstanding, if the nurse submits to an employee assistance program in an effort to treat a drug or alcohol addiction, then the agency should not report the nurse. However, the agency must report the nurse if the nurse violates the employee assistance program.

Nurses Need Help Too

Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger prides herself on zealously representing nurses, and other professional licensees, who face professional discipline.  Call Attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule your free consultation.