Board of Nursing Disciplinary Action
The state board of nursing has received multiple complaints about
J.R., an RN who works in a long-term care facility. J.R. has signed off
on 3 controlled substances count sheets that have been determined to
be inaccurate. During an investigation it was discovered that several
members of the nursing staff knew about J.R.’s reported behavior, but
they did not report their observations to the unit administrator
because the administrator is J.R.’s aunt. After the investigation, the
board of nursing subpoenas J.R. to a meeting to discuss charges in
preparation for a disciplinary hearing.
Ethical/Legal Points for Consideration
Regulation of professional nursing practice is the right of each of the
50 states. Most have regulatory agencies charged with writing
regulations and rules to implement the state nurse practice act. The
regulations approved by these agencies carry the weight of law.
Failure to behave accordingly places a nurse at risk for disciplinary
The RN who is charged with unprofessional behavior has been
charged with an offense and is entitled to the same legal rights as any
other person, including a fair and timely hearing, opportunity to
confront the accusers, right to be represented by an attorney, and
right to prepare a defense.
Possible disciplinary actions include temporary suspension of the
nursing license, revocation of the nursing license, mandatory
rehabilitation for substance use, and mandated supervision and
evaluation of practice. Sometimes the disciplinary action includes
fines and requires reeducation. The state board of nursing may report
the action to the state attorney general if evidence suggests that a
crime has been committed. The RN who is found guilty of
unprofessional practice must report this action on all future
applications for nursing positions.
All RNs should be familiar with their state’s nurse practice act and
regulations, and the composition and actions of the state board of
nursing. Nurses should pay attention to the regulation that lists
examples of actionable behavior and disciplinary actions sanctioned
by the state.
RNs have a legal and ethical obligation to report suspected illegal
behavior to their administrators and to continue reporting until the
situation is resolved. By failing to report, the RN may be charged as
an accessory to the act or aiding and abetting the behavior. This RN
may be charged with unprofessional behavior and risks losing his or
her nursing license. Shifting the obligation to someone else to report
or failure to continue reporting each incident does not satisfy this
1. How would you handle a situation in which retaliation for
reporting unprofessional behavior may occur?
2. What would you do if the nurse suspected of illegal behavior is
related to someone in the administrative hierarchy?
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