Below is a discussion of the Tennessee Board of Nursing Complaint Process. When an individual feels they must report a problem with a nurse licensed by the Tennessee Board of Nursing (“Board”) they can file a complaint with the Health Related Boards, Office of Investigation. Issues not within Board Authority includes fees and/or billing disputes for amounts charged for services, overcharges, etc.
Filing the complaint
The complainant’s identity will remain confidential and cannot be disclosed. Patients, peers, family members, facilities, pharmacists, law enforcement and anonymous people can file a complaint.
Similarly, all the practitioner’s complaint information remains confidential. However information against a practitioner will no longer remain confidential if complaints lead to formal discipline by the professional licensure board.
All complaints are reviewed by a licensed clinical consultant in good standing with the relevant licensure board. The consultant will have a consultation with a staff attorney assigned by the Department of Health on behalf of the relevant health related board.
Based on the provided allegations, both the reviewers then conduct a paper review to determine if there is any potential violation of a statute and/or rules about your profession. The file is forwarded to a field investigator if a potential violation is identified for collection of witness statements and documents proving or disapproving the allegations. This investigation file is then returned to the Nashville Central Office for the review team to analyze the statements and documents to determine if and which rules and/or statutes are violated.
It is not possible to get copies of the complaint or investigation findings as both of them contain confidential information which cannot be disclosed. You will receive a written notification of the outcome once the investigation findings are returned to the Office and a review is organized. If required, you will be guided on how to improve your practice. However if the investigation reveals findings requiring the filing of formal charges against you, you will be sent a written notice and provided with an opportunity for hearing.
As complaint information and the complainant’s and practitioner against whom the complaint was filed are confidential by statute, your office staff or designee cannot call to get a status update. The staff processing these confidential documents are trained at using the strictest measures to help ensure confidentiality is maintained. Thus only the practitioner is given information related to the complaint and complaint status to maintain strict adherence to the confidentiality requirements.
About talking to an investigator, being the named practitioner, you will be asked to participate in an interview if the review team requests an investigation. This interview is to give you the opportunity to give an explanation about your decisions, actions and behaviors related to the matter under investigation.
The issues under investigation ranges from malpractice and/or negligence in treating patients to impairment, drug diversions, situational behaviors, abuse and neglect, prescribing or supervisory responsibilities.
The matter is a part of a legal process once the Allegations Report is filed with the state. Both the assigned attorney with the Department of Health and Board’s Consultant will ascertain whether the investigation’s collected evidence like medical records, witness statements and business records support a finding of one or more statutory or rule violations.
You will be notified in writing if no violation is found. However if violations are found, its nature, severity and position of the board in disciplining and/or similar violations is considered to determine if an informal letter of correction is issued by the Board’s Consultant or if the file will be referred to the legal office to consider formal disciplinary charges.
Written notification in the form of a letter signed by the Office of Investigations staff member or a letter of correction, letter of concern or letter of warning signed by the Board’s Consultant will be issued to you if the complaint filed against you closes without violations and/or violations which do not rise to the level of formal disciplinary action. You will receive communication from the attorney assigned to your file if your complaint file is referred to the legal office.
If you are disciplined, the discipline will remain on your licensure record, which is a publicly available document. This is because formal disciplinary action which can only be taken by your licensure board after notice and a hearing opportunity, indefinitely remains part of your disciplinary history and your licensure record.
The statute lets you make an appeal of formal disciplinary actions within a fixed time span, based on statutory mandates. As informal letters of correction, letter of concern and/or letter of warning are not considered discipline and are not considered part of the licensure file are not matters subjected to appeal.