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Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of actions the Nursing Commission cannot take?

  • Help you bring a lawsuit for money against a nurse.
  • Handle a fee dispute between you and your nurse.
  • Return any money you think you are owed from a nurse.
  • Resolve questions about disability compensation or insurance reimbursement.
  • Resolve issues involving rudeness by nurses or their staff members.
  • Resolve issues involving typing errors, miscommunication, or a mistake of facts.

Who do I contact if I disagree with my billing statement?

Contact the advanced registered nurse or your insurance company. The Department of Health and boards and commissions do not investigate billing disputes unless fraud appears to be involved.

My nurse is rude. Is there anything I can do about it?

Rudeness is not a violation of the law. However, actions that mislead, harm or are of a sexual nature are considered to be unprofessional conduct and should be reported to the Nursing Commission. If you are simply not comfortable with your nurse, another option may be to find one more suitable for you.

Do I have to be the patient in order to file a complaint?

Anyone who has knowledge of a nurse's unprofessional conduct may file a report. All health professionals are required by law to report unprofessional conduct or unsafe practice of another licensed person.

Can I make a complaint without giving my name?

Complaints that do not include the name of the person involved are sometimes difficult to investigate. As a consumer of health care or a health care provider, you have whistleblower protection; RCW 43.70.075 and WAC 246-15. Your name will not be disclosed without your permission. Your consent may be necessary in order to question the nurse or witnesses and to secure your medical records if they are needed for the investigation. In that event, you would be asked to complete a release of confidentiality and would be given the necessary information to make a decision.

What part will I play after filing a complaint?

You may be asked for additional information, either by letter or interview, during the investigation. You may be required to testify if a formal hearing is necessary.

How long will it take to resolve my complaint?

The time will vary depending on the nature of the complaint, the complexity of the case and the cooperation of all parties involved. Patience is needed when dealing with legal and health care investigations. Cases may take as little as a few weeks or, in some cases, as long as two years.

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Can I be sued for filing a report?

A lawsuit can be filed by anyone for anything at any time. The immunity laws and rules give a complainant who files a complaint in good faith an affirmative defense against a lawsuit.

Is there a time limit to file a complaint?

No. There is no statutory time limit in which to file a complaint; however, it is possible that a case cannot be acted upon because the information needed to make a decision is no longer available. It is best to report as soon as possible so the records can be obtained and potential witnesses can be located. It is a good idea to make a written note of the circumstances soon after the experience so facts are not forgotten. When submitting a complaint, be as specific as you can with the facts and dates.

Should I file a malpractice suit or just report a nurse?

This is a decision that you must make. You may seek legal advice and file a report with the Nursing Commission at the same time.

If I file a complaint against a nurse and it results in disciplinary action, what kind of compensation can I get from the Nursing Commission or the individual?

The Nursing Commission does not have jurisdiction in matters of malpractice compensation. Malpractice must be pursued in civil court.

Can the Nursing Commission send a nurse to jail?

No, the Nursing Commission does not have the authority to invoke or enforce criminal or civil penalties. Authority is limited to taking corrective action against a nurse's license in order to prevent harm and protect the health and safety of the public.

My advanced practice registered nurse (ARNP) doesn't want me as a patient anymore. Can an ARNP do that?

Yes, an ARNP can terminate the provider-patient relationship just as patients can end the relationship if they think it is no longer mutually productive. The ARNP cannot abandon a patient. Generally, an ARNP must provide 30 days of care, or care until the patient is established with a new provider.

What happens if the nurse or facility doesn't respond to the Nursing Commission concerning my complaint?

Failing to cooperate with an investigation is a violation of the law. The Nursing Commission can discipline a nurse for not responding.

Can a nurse refuse to give me copies of my medical records because of an outstanding balance?

A nurse may charge a search and copying fee before the records are released, but cannot withhold records because of an outstanding balance on your account.

How do I find out how my complaint is progressing?

Details of an ongoing investigation will not be given, but you can call to receive an update on the general status of your complaint. The Nursing Commission has guidelines as to how long a complaint can take in each step of the disciplinary process. However, please remember that because of the complex legal and practice issues involved, the disciplinary process can be lengthy. Your patience is appreciated.

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