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“You can get past the dead end. You can break through the ceiling. I did and so have countless others.”

Board of Nursing Complaints

Best Nursing Assistant

If you practice long enough, chances are good that you will have a complaint filed against you at some point. Patients can be assholes, every single one of you can agree with that. In today’s society of entitlement and me me me, patients are even more likely to file a complaint against you if you do not give them what they want. If you work in high risk areas such as acute care, the chances of a complaint go up higher. If you own a niche side practice, the chances are low as long as you don’t screw someone over financially (yes, if you provide a service to someone, and they do not receive the results they wanted or feel like what you provided was not worth it, they can file a complaint against you. This is why it is best to nip it in the butt: give them a refund and go about your life).

You need to try to avoid having a complaint filed against you in the first place. Be nice, be caring, provide value, and take care of issues as they arise vs. taking the emotional route and instigating confrontation. If you practice common courtesy, then then chances of a complaint go down, but it is still possible!

I have had a complaint filed against me once. I was “rude…” Yes… “rude.” Was anyone injured? No. Did I miss a diagnosis? No. Did I commit fraud? No. Did I break the law? NO… This was a headache to say the least, but I took care of the situation on my own.

When you receive a complaint from the board of nursing, you will typically be notified via mail or through the board’s website via a secure email message. You will have the chance to review the complaint and then respond to the board of nursing with your side of the story. You have 2 options at this point:

  1. Write the letter yourself and submit it to the BON.
  2. Consult with your lawyer.

If the complaint is trivial in nature (being rude, not prescribing someone narcotics, etc.), then I say save your money on a lawyer and respond to the board truthfully and without emotion. Do not get emotional, aggressive, or butthurt about it. State the facts and tell your side. That is it.

On the other hand, if the allegation from the patient is more serious (injury, negligence, fraud, etc.) then you better hire a lawyer. Do not take a chance.

Some of you reading this are probably thinking “I would hire a lawyer regardless!” That is fine! If it makes you feel better, get a lawyer, but also think about the nature of the complaint logically. If it is trivial and the seriousness of the allegation is minimal, then a thoughtfully written letter is probably sufficient. But, if there is any doubt in your mind, spend the money and get a lawyer.

After you submit your letter or your lawyer drafts one and sends it, the board typically will review your response and determine if a hearing is necessary. This can take months by the way. If they request a hearing, that means they believe the allegation is more serious in nature and disciplinary action might be warranted. If this happens, do not freak out unless you have a real reason to (did you kill someone?). If you are called to present your case in front of the board, hire a lawyer immediately if you already have not done so. Do not go at this alone. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate these unknown waters…

Most complaints are trivial in nature, but patients view scenarios differently then we do. Their allegation could border on being false, ludicrous, and dangerous to your livelihood. Patients do not care about you, they just care about themselves and their family (this is human nature and is worsening). They have no regard or care about what happens to you after they file a frivolous complaint. This is why it is very important you understand who these patients COULD be and refuse to see them at your practice. Some people are dangerous. Fix the issue before it becomes a problem. That old saying from Benjamin Franklin “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very true.

These patients will typically be demanding, rude, needy, know-it-alls, and like to complain. If you see these traits in some of your patients, be cautious and take the necessary steps to prevent problems before they arise.

I refuse to treat some patients at my practices. I had a mid-40 year old male patient at my men’s health practice who complained about the prices. He constantly complained “Why don’t you accept insurance?” When his wife started calling and demanding to know why we didn’t accept insurance and then THREATENED me with reporting us for fraud, I fired the patient immediately and gave him a refund for 2 months of treatment. These types of people are DANGEROUS. Get rid of them. That is the best way to prevent frivolous complaints.

Remember, if you have a bad feeling about a patient, stop the interaction immediately and either fire the patient from your practice or refer them somewhere else. It is not worth the headache.  I have run into these situations a few times being a practice owner. If you start a side practice, be prepared for this as well. ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, just offer a refund and be done with it. It comes down to money more often than not… You should also be developing redundancy and multiple income streams in your life for the absolute worst-case scenario: losing your license. It happens to people…

6 Responses

    1. You are welcome! Nip it in the butt before it becomes an issue. A little money from a dangerous patient is not worth the possible consequences.

  1. Justin, I read your posts as soon as I receive them. Your advice has been very helpful to me as a new business owner.
    I previously worked at the Florida Board of Nursing. You are so right about frivolous complaints. It does take forever to resolve some of them. Documentation can save your butt (and business) if you have a disagreement with a client. A few notes about the issue and your response is a big help. The Board is there to protect the public not nurses, so it is up to each of us to do all we can to protect ourselves from disciplinary action.

    1. Thank you for following and your kind words! Yes, they are there to protect the public, not you. Any advice for our readers about documentation to CYA in terms of BON complaints?

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