Point Counterpoint: Licensure Discipline: A Challenge for Boards of Nursing—and Nurses Being a professional means being accountable.
Vickie Sheets JD, RN, CAE

AJN, American Journal of Nursing
July 2005 
Volume 105  Number 7
Pages 83 - 84
  PDF Version Available!


  • Notice.

  • Opportunity to be heard.

  • Fairness.

    I want to comment on some of the points made by Sharon LaDuke. Responding to complaints regarding nursing practice is one of the most important responsibilities of state boards of nursing. It’s also one of the most difficult, because the board must balance the right of an individual to practice a chosen profession with its own legislative mandate to protect public health and safety.

    An investigation by a board of nursing is a significant event for a nurse. Nurses need to know how the discipline process works and the procedural options available to them. This information may be available on the board of nursing Web site or in written materials that may be obtained by calling the board.

    There is significant variation among state laws, but one protection is always available for nurses: due process. Due process of law, constitutionally guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, means that the exercise of government powers must include certain safeguards for citizens. Despite the differences in how the various states process complaints about licensed professionals, states must honor the individual’s right to due process, of which there are three essential elements: notice, an opportunity to be heard, and fairness in decision making.


    The nurse must be informed of any pending charges, though the broad legal concept of due process doesn’t specify how the notification is to be accomplished. Boards of nursing and other administrative agencies must adhere to the laws and regulations of the state (for example, each state’s administrative procedures act and the nurse practice act).

    Opportunity to be heard.

    Nurses have the opportunity to present their account of any reported situation. What happened? What role, if any, did the nurse play? Which factors contributed to the situation? A nurse may ...

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