Professional Regulation and Criminal Liability Civil Complaint Thesis

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Professional Regulation and Criminal Liability

Civil Complaint Process: Registered Nursing Professionals

If a patient suspects that a registered nurse providing service to the patient in question is guilty of some form of misconduct, neglect or incompetence, there are certain procedures that such a person can follow. The first step is normally to file a complaint with the Board of Registered Nursing.

If a nurse who has been licensed by the Board is suspected of illegal activities in the context of his or her career, a complaint should be submitted to the board. Illegal activities may include negligence, incompetence, unprofessional conduct, misrepresentation, and substance abuse, among others.

When the complaint is received, the Board determines whether it has the authority to investigate the issue. The Board's authority extends only to registered nurses who are licensed, those applying to the Board for a license. The Board also has authority to prosecute those who falsely present themselves as registered nurses when they are in fact not. Issues that are eligible for investigation by the Board include those relating to the Nursing Practice Act and other regulations that have been adopted by the board.

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If the Board finds that an issue is not within its authority to investigate, an effort is made to refer the complainant to an agency that may be able to help. Failing this, a letter is sent to the complainant advising that no investigation will be made. Issues that do not fall within the authority of the Board to investigate include disputes surrounding fees or billing, general business practices, conflicts of personality, and providers that are licensed by other agencies. These agencies have their own entities via which complaints regarding professional conduct or other issues can be filed.

Thesis on Professional Regulation and Criminal Liability Civil Complaint Assignment

A complaint can be filed by means of a complaint form that is submitted to the Board of Registered Nursing. The complainant should provide as much specific information relating to the case as possible, in addition to any documentation that can provide verifiable evidence of the case. Within ten days of receipt, the Board then sends a notification of receipt. Priority is given to complaints of graver wrongdoing such as gross negligence or abuse. When it is found that the complaint may have merit, it is investigated by the Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation, or nursing consultants from the Board. Only when this investigation yields further merits is the matter taken further. If not, the complainant is notified that no further action will be taken.

When it is found that a violation has occurred in terms of the Nursing Practice Act, informal or formal proceedings will be applied as appropriate if formal disciplinary action can be handled internally. In cases of unlicensed or criminal activity, a local district attorney is approached to handle the case. During the investigation, the details of the case remain confidential. As soon as disciplinary action is however taken, certain information may become available to the public record. In cases of criminal action, the complainant may be required to testify as a witness.

A fairly new option in the health care profession is the use of a mediator in less serious cases. A mediator, as suggested by Tony Belak (2003), offers the opportunity for the complainant and defendant to work together towards a mutually satisfying conclusion. It has the potential to be less damaging to both parties than a full and formal disciplinary action, particularly in cases where a simple misunderstanding occurred.

It is however also important to recognize that formal disciplinary action is a vital part of ensuring the integrity of the nursing profession and indeed the health care industry in general. It benefits both patients and professionals providing care for them.

B. Regulatory Agencies

The main body concerned with investigating allegations against registered nurses is the Board of Registered Nursing. The board's role in such complaints is to review the case in question for its merits, and handle it either internally or refer it to other agencies such as legal professionals in the case of criminal or unlicensed activities.

The Board acts as a regulating agency to ensure that the nursing profession maintains its integrity, while registered nurses also adhere to the legislation and ethics of their profession. Complaints can therefore not be taken lightly, and the board is concerned with ensuring a thorough investigation of each incoming complaint.

Hence the entire review, investigation and legal processes involved may take a considerable amount of time, depending upon the nature and complexity of the case involved. The complainant should also be aware that other avenues of resolution are available, including civil action programs or mediation processes.

In cases where mediation is preferred, a neutral mediator is appointed. It is important that the mediator be able to hear all sides of the case in question without personal judgments in order to provide as objective a view as possible to the parties involved (Belak, 2003). In this way, the role of the mediator is to provide both parties with the opportunity to be heard and understood, as well as to communicate on an objective and effective level. Mediation is generally most appropriate to complaints that do not involve serious criminal offenses or other gross liability issues.

If internal resolutions cannot be accomplished, and the complainant feels strongly about his or her case, legal action may be taken. Such cases are then handled by legal professionals, with members of the Board and hospital in question only possibly called upon to serve as witnesses for the case.

C. Potential Criminal Liability and Professional Misconduct

The stress factor as it relates to the nursing profession is well-documented. The relationship of nurses to their patients as well as to their working environment therefore provides many opportunities for misconduct. Nurses may for example incur criminal liability by actions such as embezzlement, theft, abuse or failure to report abuse. These are crimes that relate closely to the qualifications, functions, and duties of the registered nurse.

Gross negligence is an even further departure from the ethics and legal requirements of the nursing profession. In legal terms, it is known as an "extreme" departure. This means that the registered nurse has repeatedly failed to provide the necessary nursing care and as a result caused harm to the patient.

Incompetence, on the other hand, is an example of professional misconduct, and might be remedied by procedures such as further training. It may also result from the fact that the nurse in question is not yet experienced enough to be fully versed in the intricacies of his or her duties. Furthemore, the stress involved in the profession, as well as other emotional factors, may lead to incompetence that might be remedied by a period of leave. Generally, incompetence does not lead to patient harm beyond minor inconvenience. However, caution should be exercised, and nurses incurring incompetence charges should be monitored closely for repeated patterns of such incompetence. Unremedied incompentence could lead to gross negligence.

When charging a nurse for criminal violations or professional misconduct, a Statement of Issues is submitted in the form of a legal document. This means that the nurse is forally charged with one or more violations of the Nursing Practice Act. The public is also notified that a disciplinary action is to be taken against the person.

If the violations are significantly serious, the nurse may be subjected to a license suspension by an Administrative Law Judge, pending filing. Only when a final determination has been made of the person's fitness to practice nursing will the license either be returned or permanently suspended for the duration of the trial. The California Penal Code Section 23 allows for a nursing license to be either entirely suspended for the duration of a criminal proceeding, or to be restricted in terms of the type of nursing care that may be provided.

If professional conduct involves only a minor violation of the Nursing Practice Act, the nurse may receive a letter of public reprimand, after which no further action is taken.


An investigation is generally conducted internally, by Board of Registered Nursing or an affiliated entity or person. If the issue is found not to be within the authority of the Board, it is either not pursued any further or referred to legal entities. These entities then work together with the Nursing Board, if appropriate, to take further action. A proposed decision is then rendered by an Administrative Law Judge by means of an Administrative Hearing. This decision is submitted to a Board vote, after which it goes in effect only by majority decision. When the vote has been determined, the issue may also be further discussed before finally going into effect.

Depending upon the seriousness of the criminal activity, the Board may revoke a license. During this time, the nurse may be allowed to practice under restricted conditions, or a probation period. When this period is completed successfully, the board could reissue the full license. If the probation… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Professional Regulation and Criminal Liability Civil Complaint.  (2009, June 25).  Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

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"Professional Regulation and Criminal Liability Civil Complaint."  June 25, 2009.  Accessed April 6, 2020.