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My director of nursing had a meeting with my nursing subordinates and asked if they had ever seen me do anything incompetent. Is this legal?

Friday January 25, 2013
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

My director of nursing had a meeting with my nursing subordinates and the associate director, and asked if they had ever seen me do anything incompetent. She never asked me anything. Is this legal?

Peggy



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Peggy,

Your director of nursing probably did not do anything illegal, but she did display poor leadership. When a DON has a concern about a staff member, it would be much more acceptable to meet with that staff member privately in order to share her concerns and develop a plan of action to rectify any problems the staff member may have. This allows the staff member the opportunity to defend himself or herself about any performance issues.

What you did not include in your question was how you found out about the meeting. Do you know what the DON said to the nursing staff? If she said something about you that was not true (e.g., "I am concerned about Peggy's practice. She is incompetent." or "Peggy seems to come to work under the influence on a regular basis. Has anyone seen that?"), you would have an action for defamation (slander or spoken defamation).

Also, maybe some of your fellow staff nurses said things that were not true. The problem is how to find out what was said during the meeting, despite the fact you discovered the meeting took place. Since that may be nearly impossible (everyone probably will keep silent unless you have a source who will speak to what was said and what went on), you may want to try grieving the simple fact that the meeting took place. Review your grievance policy and follow it to the letter. It is the first step in hopefully not having this happen again.

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.