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What can I do if a patient's false accusations about an abusive statement by me to him has cost me my job?

Monday November 11, 2013
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

I just had a patient falsely accuse me of saying something abusive. The company I worked for did a so-called investigation. I was terminated and reported to the state. When I asked the director of nursing if this man had any witnesses to back this up, I was told he did not but that he was alert and oriented. They took his story over mine, even though this patient has a history of making false accusations. There is no paper trail of his
previous issues.

This man also had a motive to get me into trouble because he was mad because I told him and some other patients to move their loud conversation away from the nurses station.

Without going into further detail, this is not only my job on the line but my license and livelihood. How do I get out from under something like this when its my word against his word?

Sara Lee



Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Sara Lee,

"He said—she said" situations are always difficult. However, in your situation, you already have obtained some important information. You were told there were no witnesses to your alleged abuse of the patient. Additionally, as you mentioned, the patient has a history of false accusations. Even without the paper trail, this can be helpful. His anger at your asking the group of patients to take their conversation away from the nurse's station may be the motive for this attack against you.

You should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who can help you with this matter, especially in view of the fact you not only lost your job but you also have been reported to the state (board of nursing, it is presumed). You will need to recall as many facts as you can about this situation, including any other nurses you know about who have been accused of something by this patient, and who were the other patients in the group you asked to move away from
the nurse's station.

Your attorney has more tools and approaches available than you do to try and obtain information about this situation from other nurses and to attempt to learn more about this patient. This is especially so if the board decides to take action against you by requiring a hearing in this matter. You should consult the attorney of your choice as soon as possible.

Regards,
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.