Investigation is usually completed in 170 days or less, but some cases may take longer. In cases that identify high risk of harm, investigations are usually completed within 30 days.
A letter is sent to the nurse (now called “respondent”) notifying the nurse of the investigation, and the name and contact information of the assigned investigator.
A letter is sent to the person who reported the conduct (called the “complainant”). Some complainants are defined as “whistleblowers” (see WAC 246-15) under the law, and their identity as the complainant is protected. In a few cases, the commission may need the complainant to sign a waiver of identity protection or the case may have to be closed.
The investigator gathers statements from people involved in the incident, witnesses, facility or DSHS investigations, medical records, facility policy and procedures, and any other information relevant to the allegations. Investigators are not decision makers; they gather the facts for the commission to consider when making a decision. They do not make statements of guilt or innocence, or make any findings.
Because this is just an investigation, it will not show on Provider Credential Search. Only formal charging documents, final actions, and stipulations are on the website.
When the investigation is complete, a report is written and the evidence is placed in a file. The case is then assigned to a commission member and a staff attorney to review. This begins the case disposition process.
Nurses have the right to:
- clear notice of any alleged violation
- hire an attorney at their own expense to represent them
- a hearing before a panel of the commission.
The commission must first take action that protects the public and then, if possible, remediate the nurse. Most cases can be resolved with some kind of remediation. Often, this includes educational classes, and a report of what has been learned. It may include probation, supervision, restriction on work shifts or positions, or employer reports. However, in some cases, it may require suspension of the license for a period of time, or in extreme cases, revocation of the license.