Although the following was written for our RN Guardian clients, the advice will come in handy for anyone facing an administrative disciplinary matter or anyone who is faced with losing a professional license:
SIX WAYS TO AVOID THE BRN
Many types of incidents at work and even outside of work, can lead to both employer disciplinary investigations and investigations by the Board of Registered Nursing (“BRN”). The difference is your employer conducts an investigation to determine if you committed some form of misconduct and, accordingly, whether they need to take some type of remedial action. The BRN conducts an investigation to determine whether they should take some type of action against your license. The most critical time to avoid the BRN/disciplinary minefield is shortly following the incident that gives rise to the investigation. Unfortunately, many RNs make critical mistakes during this time which causes them huge problems. If you follow the simple guidelines below, you will greatly reduce your chances of wandering into the BRN/disciplinary minefield.
1. Do Not Give a Voluntary Statement Without Counsel.
If an incident occurs that might give rise to an investigation your natural inclination may be to talk about it. This is the last thing you want to do at this point. First, voluntary statements are admissible in all types of legal proceedings. That means voluntary statements are admissible in criminal proceedings, civil proceedings, and administrative investigations and hearings such as BRN hearings. Voluntary statements are also readily available to the media and members of the public. On the other hand, a compelled, coerced or ordered statement cannot be used against you in any type of criminal proceeding. Also, a compelled statement enjoys a much higher level of confidentiality and cannot be readily released to the media or members of the public.
Many investigations involve some element of criminal allegations. For example, if the incident giving rise to the investigation has to do with missing property or property that was used for personal reasons, you may be facing a theft or embezzlement investigation. If the investigation involves improper touching of any other person you might be facing an assault and battery investigation. Personal use of the employer’s cell phones and computer systems have been prosecuted as embezzlement cases. Therefore, it is very important that at least initially, you do not give a voluntary statement.
2. Slow The Process Down
Avoid giving any kind of statement, whether voluntary or compelled, without having sufficient information and being thoroughly prepared. Gathering information and preparing simply takes time. Many RNs have gotten into trouble by giving rushed, off-the-cuff statements that contain inaccurate information. Remember, when you are under investigation and in a stressful environment, your ability to recollect, observe, and perceive is significantly diminished. It is very common for people to give inaccurate and differing descriptions of events that are observed in quickly evolving, stressful, or uncertain circumstances. The best way to ensure you give accurate information is to take the time to adequately prepare. And remember, if you give an inaccurate statement, your employer or the BRN usually will not conclude that it was a simple, honest mistake. Rather, they will conclude you are intentionally misleading them to cover up some form of misconduct.
3. Get A Representative One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to get a representative to help you in the investigation and to assist you during the investigatory interview. You should have a number of options available to you including your RN Guardian lawyer, union representative, or shop steward. The primary role of the representative is to help you prepare to give an accurate statement. The representative can gather information on your behalf and conduct an investigation (which you should not be doing). The representative can act as a buffer between you and the investigator and between you and your employer. Your representative can give you valuable advice on your actions to minimize the impact of any investigation.
4. Be Honest When You Do Give A Statement When you finally do give a statement be sure to be accurate and honest. A statement may be in the form of a written statement such as a report or a chart entry or it may be a verbal statement such as a formal investigatory interrogation. Either way, be careful to give only accurate information. Also be concise. The less said the better—usually. Answer questions completely, accurately and honestly but efficiently. Remember, you are not there to tell your life’s story. You are not there to get a promotion or to convince people what a great registered nurse you are. You are there to convey accurate and basic facts to refute the allegations of the investigation.
Many RNs turn an inconsequential or minor investigation into a career-ender by giving inaccurate or dishonest information during the investigation. By following steps 1 through 3, above, and giving an accurate statement you will greatly minimize your chances of wandering into the minefield.
5. Do Not Do Your Own Investigation
Do not talk to other witnesses or do your own investigation. This is a job for your lawyer or representative. If you do talk to witnesses about the event giving rise to the investigation inevitably, there will be an allegation that you attempted to dissuade the witness’s statement, or you collaborated with a witness to come up with a story. This is especially true if there is a disagreement between the witnesses as to what occurred and who is the party at fault. If you come under investigation you should not discuss the matter with anyone except your appropriate representative. This is especially true with any person who might be a witness in the investigation.
6. Be Confident
If you remember only one piece of advice remember this: Be Confident. Be calm, focused, and act like you committed no form of misconduct whatsoever. Your statements, demeanor and body language should convey one message: “I did nothing wrong and I will easily be cleared.” Remember, we live in a world of perceptions where perceptions become reality. If your supervisors and coworkers perceive you to be guilty, regardless of the facts of your case, they will conclude you are in fact guilty. On the other hand, if you’re confident and your coworkers and supervisors perceive you to be innocent, they will inevitably conclude you are innocent. It is extraordinarily important to maintain your confidence.