Your first clue of an impending case before the Tennessee Board of Nursing is when you get a call or visit from an investigator from The Tennessee Department of Health. What should you do? Should you talk to them? Should you call a lawyer that handles cases before the Board of Nursing?
You have the right to do either. First, an interview with an investigator is a one-sided affair. A complaint has already been generated. A file has been created. Interviews with the reporting party have probably been conducted. Their minds may already have been made up. Is it a fair interview? Is it being recorded?
Health board investigators in the past have been trained not to record interviews. They come to the interview with a preconceived idea of your wrongdoing. From my experience, it is not a search for the truth. I would suggest one not consent to an interview without first consulting with a lawyer.
Is there a general rule on whether you should give an interview? No. It is on a case by case assessment. On one accession, I agreed to the interview in my office. Later no charges were brought. On another occasion, I consented to an interview where charges were brought but we were able to resolve the case without a revocation of an R.N. license. In that case, we hired a court reporter to type up the interview so there would be no question as to what was said. In most cases, it is your best option to decline any interview.
You will still be able to tell your side of the story at either a deposition or at trial. So don't worry about it being taken out of context. A lawyer can help you prepare for the onslaught of questions being asked by someone trained to gather a confession.
Once you get the call, take a deep breath. Then call a lawyer. Ask about their experience in handling cases before the Tennessee Board of Nursing or other health-related boards. Sit down with them and get an idea of the process.
After the investigation phase is complete, the next step is the Board's attorney sending you what we call a 320(c) letter. This letter is basically an offer of settlement prior to the filing of formal charges and includes a Consent Order that the attorney will encourage you to sign. However, the offer is almost never one you should accept. The way the letter is worded though, they want you to think you have no choice in the matter and that your license will be revoked if you don't agree to the offer. It's almost like threatening to hang someone but giving them the opportunity to accept the firing squad instead. Do not sign any Consent Order before consulting an attorney.
If you get a call or a letter from the Tennessee Department of Health regarding your professional license, please contact us so we can determine if we can help you. You have worked hard to get your nursing license or advanced certificate. You owe to yourself to protect it.