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What were the top causes for nursing license complaints in 2020?

When a medical professional faces discipline, the stakes are high. You’ve trained, been credentialed and amassed debt to enter your profession. Receiving a complaint adds stress and worry of losing all that you’ve invested and worked for. However, knowing why people file complaints may help you be proactive in avoiding receiving them. Or, if you receive a complaint, knowing the process will help you know where to turn for help in the event of a complaint.

According to the 2020 report from the Minnesota Board of Nursing, the top complaints for that year were:

  1. “Failure to practice nursing with reasonable skill and safety (RN or LPN)”
  2. “Inability to safely practice due to illness”
  3. “Violation of Board rule/order, state or federal law related to the practice of nursing.”

Who is filing the complaints?

The sources of complaints were broken down into these categories: The Board of Nursing itself was the highest complainant with 471 or 29% of complaints. The number two spot was tied between the patient or family of patient comprised 27% of complaints and the nurse’s employer with a matching number of complaints. The third place goes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) with 16% and the rest of the complaints are divided among department of health, state agencies and other sources.

Registered Nurses or RNs received the vast majority of complaints, more than twice the complaints received by Licensed Practical Nurses or LPNs. The lesser number of complaints were received for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and Applicants to the field. The report stated that complaints are trending downward, but the number of complaints from 2016 (644 for RNs) to 2020 (700 for RNs) actually increased gradually then, after a 2018 peak of 799 complaints against RNs, began to decrease again but are not yet down to 2016 numbers yet.

What action results after a nursing complaint?

After the appropriate board reviews the filed complaint, one of five actions will likely result, including:

  • Complaint may be dismissed with no disciplinary action taken.
  • HPSP Case Referral – This avenue involves reporting the licensee to the Health Professional Services Program which initiates and monitors mental health and substance use or abuse matters.
  • Corrective action in the form of further education, including classes, for the nurse (licensee) or learning through consultations with other medical professionals.
  • Disciplinary action – formal public action to limit, condition, or suspend the nurse from practice.

Source: Minnesota Board of Nursing Annual Discipline Report Fiscal Year 2020, p. 14

In 2020, the Board of Nursing licensees accounts for 50% of the participants in the HPSP monitoring program.

Health licensing boards oversee discipline

Minnesota has numerous health-related professional licensing boards. Based on which area of the profession a nurse, physician, surgeon or other medical professional practices, you may be held accountable to standards of practice and professionalism by one of these boards, such as:

  • Minnesota Board of Nursing
  • Minnesota Board of Medical Practice
  • Minnesota Board of Dentistry
  • Minnesota Board of Pharmacy
  • Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners
  • Minnesota Board of Psychology

Complaints can vary between each board. However, in general, the top three complaints to health professional boards usually involve patient care, charting problems or perceived lack of professionalism.

A skilled professional license defense attorney can represent your interests when facing disciplinary action and in protecting your license.