Filing a Complaint

A nurse's practice and behavior is expected to be safe, competent, ethical and in compliance with applicable laws and rules. Any person who has knowledge of conduct by a licensed nurse that may violate a nursing law or rule or related state or federal law may report the alleged violation to the state board of nursing where the situation occurred.

If you believe that there is a problem with a nurse, ask yourself if the nurse's practice and/or behavior is:

  • Unsafe 
  • Incompetent 
  • Unethical 
  • Affected by the use of alcohol, drugs or other chemicals 
  • Affected by a physical or mental condition 
  • Is in violation of a nursing or nursing-related law or rule 

Most states require a written and signed description of the practice or behavior. Many states have complaint forms available on their websites or you may call the board office to request information on filing a complaint. The board needs enough information to be able to determine: 

  • If the individual is a nurse licensed by the board or a licensure applicant. 
  • If the alleged practice or behavior is a violation of a board law or rule that the board has the authority to enforce. 

Contact your state board of nursing for questions regarding confidentiality and how you, the complainant, may be involved in the process. Complaints should not be sent to NCSBN, as we have no authority over individual nurses. 

NCSBN’s Adverse Events Decision Pathway for Nurse Leaders/Administrators is designed to assist nurse leaders and administrators in determining action steps for adverse events/errors or unprofessional conduct involving a nurse. The pathway provides questions regarding system error, mitigating factors and behavioral choices of the nurse which, when used with data from your investigation, will promote a consistent framework for making important patient decisions.

Related Publications

Published Date: 2011
Topic: Practice and Education

State and Territorial Boards of Nursing: What Every Nurse Needs to Know

This brochure offers nurses an explanation of what boards of nursing (BONs) do for the profession and those who work in it. This brochure provides information regarding:

  • A BON's investigation into violations of a state's nurse practice act (NPA)
  • The process for filing a complaint against a nurse who has exhibited unsafe, negligent or incompetent behavior
  • What a nurse can expect while their complaint is being investigated

Download PDF

Published Date: 2011
Topic: Consumer Outreach

 What You Need to Know About Nursing Licensure and Boards of Nursing

This brochure explains the importance of nurse licensure, including:

  • Why nurses are required to be licensed
  • How BONs safeguard the public by evaluating, issuing and renewing nurse licenses
  • How the nurse practice act (NPA) is implemented
  • Why disciplinary actions are taken against nurses who violate the NPA

Download PDF

Published Date: 2011
Topic: Consumer Outreach

 Your State Board of Nursing Works for You: A Health Care Consumer's Guide

This brochure explains how a board of nursing protects the public and

  • Serves as a guide for consumers who have experienced or witnessed a nurse exhibiting unsafe, negligent or incompetent behavior
  • Explains what consumers can expect when a complaint is being investigated
  • Defines various nursing roles and responsibilities

Download PDF