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Does a nurse supervisor have the authority to call a nurse peer behind closed doors to discuss complaints about job performance?

Wednesday May 30, 2012
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

Does a nurse supervisor have the authority to call a nurse peer behind closed doors to discuss complaints about job performance?

Carol



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Carol,

Your question contained little details so a general response is in order. A nurse supervisor is someone whose duties include making sure patient care issues are carried out non-negligently and as required by healthcare provider orders. When there are complaints about a staff nurse (it is assumed this is who you are referring to by "nurse peer"), it is vital the nurse supervisor actively investigate the complaints and discuss the issues with the nurse who is the subject of the complaints. It may be the complaints are untrue and unfounded. Or, it may be the complaints have a basis and the conduct needs correcting. Without an investigation and without discussing raised concerns with the subject of those concerns, the nurse supervisor would not be fulfilling his or her responsibilities.

Discussing raised concerns behind closed doors is indeed the best way to determine if the raised issues are true or not. As the nurse peer, you would not want this done in front of your colleagues, especially if the concerns are not true. Indeed, discussing job performance issues in front of others that turn out not to be true, can be a basis for allegations of defamation (slander or spoken untruths about your reputation).

If the concerns are true, being able to discuss the complaints and how to rectify them behind closed doors allows the nurse peer to save face and resolve the issues without the entire nursing staff and others on the unit knowing what was discussed.

The nurse supervisor would document the invalid concerns or the valid issues of performance by following the facility's policy for disciplinary warnings, assuming there was a need to do so.

Sincerely,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.