The Nurse Practitioner Disciplinary Process: How It Works

Attorney Alex Fisher recently had an opportunity to sit down with Erin Tolbert, the creator of MidlevelU, an online resource for health care providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and discuss how the nurse practitioner disciplinary process works in Tennessee. The original article and video, published on MidlevelU can be found here.

Erin and Alex discuss:

The Difference Between Disciplinary Action and Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider is sued by an individual, usually a patient or family member of a patient, in civil court. In such a case, the health care provider is being sued for money. By contract, disciplinary action is initiated by the Department of Health, typically once a complaint has been filed against a health care provider, regarding that provider’s professionalism. In such a case, what is at stake is the health care provider’s professional licensure.

What happens when a complaint is filed against your license?

When a valid complaint is made against a health care provider, the complaint is assigned to an investigator with the Department of Health to investigate. Once the investigation has concluded, the investigator hands over the case to an attorney in the Department of Health. If the attorney thinks discipline is appropriate, the health care provider will then receive a letter in the mail from the Department of Health. This letter is referred to as a 4-5-320(c) letter, and is discussed in further detail here.

What happens if you receive discipline from the Department of Health?

Discipline on one’s nurse practitioner license can range from a letter of concern to a reprimand to probation or suspension all the way up to revocation. Depending on the alleged conduct of the provider, a wide range of outcomes are possible.

What should you do once you find out a complaint has been filed against you?

I recommend hiring an attorney to represent you prior to accepting an interview with a Department of Health investigator or responding to any correspondence from the Department of Health. Having a complaint filed against one’s professional license is an emotional situation, and a health care provider really needs a third party who is neutral and removed from the situation who can best advocate for him or her.