The role of the Ohio Board of Nursing is to regulate the practice of nursing. This entails issuing professional licenses to nurses and also investigating and imposing discipline on nurses who violate the Ohio Nurse Practice Act.
Often, a nurse first learns that a complaint has been filed against them with the Nursing Board when they are contacted by a Nursing Board investigator. The Nursing Board has “field” investigators who work throughout Ohio and are each assigned to various geographic regions of the State. Once a complaint has been filed or initialed against a nurse, an investigator is assigned to conduct the investigation. This may include collecting records from the nurse’s employer or from the Court. It may also include contacting the nurse for a personal interview.
Prior to meeting with the Nursing Board investigator, please understand that under Ohio law, (R.C. 9.84) you have the right to be accompanied, represented and advised by an attorney and you are also required to be advised of the right to counsel BEFORE you are interrogated.
Unlike in a criminal proceeding, you will not be assigned legal counsel for your defense. You are required to seek your own legal counsel to assist in your defense before the Nursing Board or any other administrative agency. However, you have a right to have counsel present.
Many nurses have asked me whether they “look guilty” by attending the meeting with legal counsel or if it “appears that they are hiding something” if they take legal counsel with them to the meeting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Meetings with investigators can be intimidating, overwhelming and threatening. Any information that is obtained by the investigator can and will be used against you before the Nursing Board. In addition, if the investigator believes that the nurse’s conduct violates the law, they can also alert the local sheriff’s department or criminal Prosecutor, and in certain instances, criminal charges can be issued against a nurse.
While I often encourage nurses to fully cooperate in an investigation, including meeting with the investigator, I highly encourage nurses to retain legal counsel to assist them throughout the investigative and disciplinary process. You have a right to counsel under Ohio law and it is in your interest to exercise this right to protect yourself.
As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the law firm of Collis, Smiles and Collis, LLC at 614-486-3909 or you may email me at Beth@collislaw.com