What can a nurse do when faced with false patient accusations?

By | 2021-05-28T17:20:11-04:00 April 29th, 2015|12 Comments

Q: Dear Nancy,

 I am an RN working at an outpatient and residential psychiatric facility. I was told one of the clients wrote a letter saying she does not want me to have access to her records or speak to her psychiatrist. She said my conduct has been unacceptable and that I “have been warned several times.” She also supposedly stated that my contact with her has caused her stress at school.

I do not work with this woman one-on-one at all, and deal with her only superficially when she sees her case manager at a group home where I have an office. Our conversation is very cordial and casual. I have very little knowledge of her health needs and all of this comes out of left field. I am not clear about her mental health diagnosis. She does have a personality disorder.

This appears to be malicous and vindictive since I work with another client with whom she is friends. This other client feels that I purposely am trying to get one of his medications discontinued, and on his part this is delusional. My nursing reputation is excellent, I have been employee of the month and have wonderful evaluations. My supervisor stands by me, but this is causing me so much anxiety and stress. Do I have any recourse?


A:Dear Joan,

 Your being upset with the two clients and their conduct you describe is understandable. However, there is probably little that can be done about the letter she wrote. Although it would be natural to want to “clear this up” in some way, getting involved in such a process will only lead to further problems. You know you are a good nurse, a good employee, and your supervisor stands behind you. You are the professional in this situation. Continue to interact with her as you have in the past: Be cordial and casual.

It probably would be a good idea not to be assigned to any part of her care, especially since she has asked that you not have access to her records or speak to her psychiatrist. It might also be a good idea not to provide care to the patient’s friend who is falsely accusing you of trying to decrease his medications. If they pair up against you, things could get out of control. Talk with your supervisor about that.

Unfortunately, false accusations often occur against psychiatric nursing staff. If you feel you want to explore whether or not you have any legal recourse against this resident, a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who knows about psychiatric nursing is certainly an option for you.

Regards, Nancy

About the Author:

Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation, and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 40 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. 


  1. Terri May 18, 2017 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    I have had a facility make a false accusation against me in medications diversion however the patients never said it the DON pursued it causing a lot of trouble for me and now they want me to surrender my license. Please help I’m. So overwhelmed.

    • Sallie Jimenez May 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Hello Terri,

      To ask Nancy a question, email [email protected].

      Best of luck in resolving your case.

    • Deborah Dodds December 13, 2018 at 5:26 am - Reply

      Never give up your license get someone to represent you when you are charged by the board fight for what you have worked so hard for. Write down everything you about the case and have it ready when you talk to the board

  2. Mom of seven February 9, 2019 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I have been a nurse for 13 years. I’ve never had a complaint against me. Recently I confronted one of the Directors of nursing at a hospital I worked for regarding safety issues in a professional manner. That meeting resulted in a reprimand by my manager. Later while caring for an assignment the director that I had spoke to about the safety issue passed me in the hall, and stated, “Our hospital is better than your other jobs hospital.” Then a week later I was caring for a critical care patient on a unit. The patient and his family were polite to me. However, I removed his top sheet because it was wet. While removing the top sheet the patient grabbed the bottom of his gown as if I was going to expose him. I replaced the wet sheet with a clean one. This family had the director’s personal number and contacted her stating I had exposed the patient. The manager of the unit came to me, removed me from the assignment, but told me if I were comfortable I might try to apologize to the family and patient. Before I handed off my patient, I went in the room and said I’m very sorry that I made you feel uncomfortable. I had been precepting a nursing student that day who was standing right next to me in the room with the patient. The hospital contacted that student who stated, “if she had exposed him I would have seen it because I was standing next to the patient’s bed. The student stated that I did not expose the patient. My manager spoke to that family around 2:30 pm later that day. The family stated they had no further issues and were happy with the newly assigned nurse. The next morning the director went to my manager and reported a personal text from this family asking to speak to her privately. The director then reported to my manager that the family said I intimidated the patient when I apologized. I was called from my assignment for the day and was met by a director, my manager, and HR. They stated that they knew I didn’t want a black mark on my employment record, and that they were going to discipline me for this incident. They then gave me the option to give my notice. I’m a single mom. I’ve never been written up. They said that it didn’t matter what the nursing student said. It only mattered what the director reported, and the patient’s family’s perception of what happened.

  3. Sonia ybarra June 13, 2019 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    I have been falsely accused of hitting a patient on the head, there is an investigation because a stall member took the patients statement as true, this patient has a long history of making fade statement about their care taker, is this ground for a defamation of character sue because the staff submitted the report without following procedures

  4. Canduce August 29, 2020 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    I am a first year Nurse – Home Health. No complaints. I am concerned being the only nurse present.

    I was trained in college on the buddy system. In Home Health there is no buddy system.

    Not all my pt’s and their families are all that stable emotionally or mentally.

    I have concerns about their ‘non.sense’and no witnesses on my behalf. Any safety suggestions?

    Thank you

    • Candice December 17, 2020 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      I too am a Home Health Nurse – 2nd year.

      I have the same concerns – So far only positive reviews from pt’s families.

      Yes some of my pt’s families clearly have emotional, mental issues….Makes me concerned about dishonesty.

  5. Kim March 26, 2023 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    I was accused of using amphetamines and I took Adderall. What can I do?

  6. K Fredenburg April 3, 2023 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    My daughter is a travel nurse in NICU at night. She has been bullied by 2 regular nurses, but has not reported this to her supervisor. Last week at work, she only talked to one mother for an hour off and on. The next day she was called off 30 minutes before she started work. No reason was given except they had had a complaint. Today her contract was terminated and she is banned from all Methodist Hospitals.

    The complaint was that she told a baby to shut up, that she said the mom did not have to wear a mask, and that she said she was only in this for the money. She believes she had a good relationship with this mom and she says none of these accusations are true. She really believes the 2 nurses bullying her might be behind this. Her supervisor has never spoken to her. Is there anything she can do?

    Even if these comments were true, which they are not, is such action warranted? I am writing as a very concerned mom because she is devastated. Nowhere to turn. I am a teacher and we always have opportunity for redress and discussion. Is this total lack of communication and severe punishment typical of the nursing profession?

    • Sharon November 14, 2023 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Unfortunately, I have also been the victim of bullying at work as a RN. Different circumstances, but I also had my contract cancelled. I am sorry to hear of your daughters situation. It is very sad but very common in nursing. I am currently working on a new career, sad to say because of the way I have been treated working as a nurse.

  7. Dee September 6, 2023 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I am in need of assistance because of a false accusation from a patient. How can I defend myself against this?

    • Sallie Jimenez October 5, 2023 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Hello Dee,

      You might want to consider contacting a nurse attorney as soon as possible for guidance on how to go about defending yourself and protecting your license. Nurse.com blogger Nancy Brent, JD, MS, RN, has written several blog about this type of issue. Please review some of those blogs here: https://www.nurse.com/blog/author/nbrent/

      Good luck,

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