Don't panic. The Board is providing you with "notice" which is required by due process that a complaint has been filed against your license with the State Nursing Board.
Go ahead and scream, cry, curse, and put on a pair of steel toe boots and kick the shi% out of your printer. I kick my printer when I am angry; its healthy. Although, I can tell you I am less likely to kick the $800 color laser printer I have now than I was to kick my $100 black/white laser printers.
Then call your mom, BFF and significant other and scream, cry, curse, and rationalize your damage to the printer.
Take a day or two to gather your thoughts and review the information you received from the Board. Okay, now you are ready to proceed. Don't wait until a day or two before a response is due to the State Nursing Board to contact an attorney.
I will tell you what some of the Nursing Boards won't tell you. A complaint has been filed and this is a legal matter and case. This isn't a criminal case or a civil case but it is an administrative law case. It is a legal case.
Anytime you have a legal case, you have two options:
1. You can represent yourself and proceed pro se.
This is always the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to proceed. If you want it quick and free, just fire off your response and see what happens. OR
2. You can have an attorney to represent you.
In order to proceed with # 2, you need want to investigate whether or not you:
1. Want to hire an attorney; Some nurses know from the beginning that they want and plan to retain an attorney; its just a matter of which attorney.
2. Should hire an attorney; Some nurses suspect they may need to hire an attoreny but are really not sure what are the pros/cons including the fees/costs.
What are my thoughts?
1. If you are going to hire an attorney to represent you before the Board, research a variety of attorney websites, contact your State Nurses Association, etc.
2. When you speak with the attorney, find out if the attorney has handled cases similiar to yours with the same or similiar issues.
If not, then you should note this and then contact another attorney. You want someone who has experience dealing with your issues especially if those issues will result in discipline whether by agreement or after a hearing.
In some cases discipline is coming like Santa Claus its just a matter of how and when!
3. Going for an attorney who is the cheapest or less expensive isn't necessarily how you want to select your nurse license defense attorney. This isn't the Value Menu at McDonalds.
If an attorney quotes you a higher fee than average, then you should ask why? The attorney should be able to tell you.
4. If you are going to hire a lawyer, hire a license defense attorney who represents and counsels nurses. You want someone who practices before the State Nursing Board regularly.
5. If you are going to represent yourself then do your research and be prepared.
a. Don't later vent on the online nursing forums and chatrooms about how evil the Nursing Board staff and members are if you don't get the result or outcome you want.
b. Its not a good idea to rep yourself before the Nursing Board when you have pending or forthcoming criminal charges.
c. Its not a good idea to rep yourself if you are licensed in more than one state.
6. If you have a pending criminal case and you know it will result in a conviction, diversion, etc., consult with a nurse license defense ASAP. A license defense attorney can discuss the criminal implications with you and also communicate with your criminal defense attorney. Don't wait until the criminal is resolved and you are contacted by the Nursing Board.
7. Don't assume your criminal defense attorney has experience representing nurses before the State Nursing Board. You may need to retain a license defense attorney also.
I have one case in particular where a nurse relied on the advice of his/her criminal defense attorney who was clueless about the licensure issues and this resulted in serious, I mean serious, discipline.
I am upfront. I don't handle criminal defense cases and I don't sue healthcare organizations. I do nurse license defense, nursing law, and health law and admin law cases involving nurses and other licensed HCPs. I routinely refer nurses to criminal defense or employment law attorneys.
This economy ain't the best and some attorneys see license defense as a way to make a quick buck because let's face it: licensed healthcare professionals usually have more disposable income than your average person who may earn $9.00 an hour.
8. If you have professional liability insurance with a license defense protection benefit, make sure it will allow your attorney to paid monthly as the case progresses. Some attorneys won't accept the assignment of your benefits in license defense cases without some type of payment upfront because the attorney is essentially "bank rolling" your case for months or years until its resolved and then the attorney can submit a bill for payment to the insurance company.
This may not seem like something that is important now but it can be when you are searching for attorney to represent you before the Nursing Board and all of the attorneys you speak with won't accept an assignment of your insurance benefit without some type of payment initially.
Think about it. Can you afford not to be paid for several months or years? Most attorneys cannot either.
I must admit, the majority of my cases are private pay and the nurse doesn't have professional liability insurance. However I do have a number of cases where the nurse has insurance with Marsh Affinity/Chicago Insurance or NSO/HPSO.
9. If you are going to represent yourself at least schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the allegations in the case before you proceed. At the most this will cost you a few hundred dollars.
Don't just fire off a 80 page handwritten response to the Indiana Nursing Board complaint, Kentucky Nursing Board complaint or the Ohio Nursing Board potential violation report.
10. Take a deep breath. Its going to be okay. If you received a complaint or potential violation report in the mail, don't panic. Take another deep breath. Take a swing of Pepsi and chase it with a shot of water with a twist of lime. Now that you feel better you can start doing your online research.