Hospitals often, for a number of reasons, raise quick and unfair allegations against their nursing staff. How you respond and handle these allegations is important. Knowing the resources available and their limitations is also important if you find yourself being unfairly accused, as well as preserving future options with respect to your license and nursing career.
- Understand that HOSPITALS ARE REQUIRED TO REPORT ALLEGATIONS OF PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT. This has significant implications for a nurse’s future and career. Any negotiation or settlement with the hospital needs to take into account and, if possible, be addressed in such a way as to not give rise to reporting. However, the nurse should be aware that if there is the potential for such a claim, they could be entitled to legal fees from their malpractice insurance carrier to hire a lawyer with expertise in health care law and professional misconduct cases.
- The union can be a good source of support, but their resources are limited. Due to the volume of cases they handle, the same level of attention is not given to each case and there is a large incentive for them to settle cases quickly. The hospital’s general “settlement” form, often favors the hospital and down the road can lead to problems with a nurse’s license, even if the intent is a settlement without admissions. Certain circumstances are interpreted as an admission of misconduct by the Office of Professional Discipline (OPD) and the Department of Health (DOH).
- Hospitals often use the power of their finances to freeze nurses out and get them to agree to anything. In addition to their malpractice carrier paying legal fees for outside heath care legal counsel, nurses need to be aware of their option to evaluate and take action that might be outside the scope of any union representation. In this case, a nurse should have a back up plan to be able to financially cope with a sudden action by the hospital.
In light of the significantly lower bargaining power nurses hold against the larger institutions that they work for, it is even more important for them to know their rights and access to legal representation and assistance before any problem arises so that they know what to do in the event of a crisis.