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Although attendance is not required, would it be in my best interest to be at a disciplinary conference in person, rather than be available by phone?

Wednesday September 26, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I received a Notice of Informal Disciplinary Conference from the board of nursing. The complaint names me — I was the Director of Nursing at the time — and an LPN. The issue in question pertains to alleged patient neglect and does not state any specifics. Both of us no longer work for this employer. Are the company attorneys obligated to represent us for the time in question, as we were employed with them during this time? My understanding is, the purpose of this conference is to decide whether or not a formal hearing should or will take place. Do you recommend I obtain an attorney? Also, I was told that I could be available by telephone instead of attending in person. I will not have to take a day off from work, if I choose the telephone option. Although my attendance is not required, do you suggest it would be in my best interest to be there in person?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Daneen,

When one's license is at stake, it is always important to take the matter seriously. In your situation, you stated this conference is to determine if the case should go to a full hearing. To avoid a full hearing is in your best interest, since such proceedings require you to hire an attorney, present witnesses, take time off from work, etc. If the issue(s) alleged against you can be resolved, or even be dismissed through an informal disciplinary conference, then that is where your efforts should be focused.

It is doubtful your former employer will provide you with legal counsel. In fact, there may be a conflict with your former employer, if its position is that, as an example, you were told about the neglect and did nothing. Your best bet is to retain a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who handles professional discipline cases.

Also, keep in mind that when there are two licensees who are involved allegedly in a nursing act violation, the two may not always see eye-to-eye on who did what or who did not do something. Not knowing all the specifics of the allegations (and apparently you don't either), it would probably be a good idea for the LPN to obtain his or her own attorney.

Doing the informal conference by phone is something you need to seriously consider because it may be that the allegations against you can be resolved or dismissed at this juncture. Not being physically present so the board can evaluate you and your demeanor about the allegations is risky. Your attorney can advise you what is the best thing to do about this issue.


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.