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Formal action begins with a statement of charges. Among the documents sent is an answer or request for hearing form. To preserve their rights, nurses must answer the charges in writing within 20 days or the Commission proceeds without them and enter a default order. If the nurse answers and requests a hearing, an assigned health law judge sets a hearing schedule and the parties exchange information to encourage settlement. Most formal charges are settled with an agreed order.

However, if no settlement can be reached, a hearing before a panel of the commission is held.

Hearings are conducted by the Department of Health Adjudicative Service Unit. That hearing process is described at its website.

Nurses have the right to be represented by an attorney.

At any point in the disciplinary process, respondents always have the right to hire an attorney (at their own expense) to represent them. The commission will then work directly with the attorney instead of the respondent towards a settlement. Staff members cannot give legal advice to a respondent.

Because the disciplinary process can be complicated and stressful, the commission recommends all nurses be represented by their own attorney if possible. Because a complex case that goes all the way to a hearing could cost the nurse thousands of dollars in attorney fees, nurses may want to consider having insurance that covers all attorney costs during the disciplinary process.