Suspended because of patient complaint: what now?
March 5, 2014 3:32 PM   Subscribe

A young relative who recently started a job as a CNA at a nursing home has been suspended because of a patient complaint. She has no idea what the complaint was or who made it, nor can she recall any unusual incidents or patient interactions. The director of nursing told her she cannot give details at this time, but told her she is suspended and that she's to come in for a meeting on Friday at a specified time. What can she expect? (I'd like informed answers only. Please do not answer if you are merely speculating.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Without details of the incident, you will probably only get broad strokes, but most places will follow the same general template for these interactions.

Here's a best guess: HR will most likely be at the meeting (it won't just be the director of nursing and your relative). First, the incident will be disclosed. Second, your relative will get a chance to explain her actions. Third, any discipline resulting from the incident will be explained and handed down. Fourth, depending on the severity of the incident/punishment, your relative may be given the chance to appeal, and will be advised as to next steps (written reprimand, suspension, or termination in serious incidents).

It may go exactly like that, and it may vary a bit, but that's a reasonable general guideline as to how these things can go.
posted by pdb at 3:59 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lawyer, now. Go to If you are in Maryland or DC send me a MeMail.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:21 PM on March 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yes, agree with the above. This is dead serious -- even if she can walk away from this job, this charge will follow her.
A suspension from work is an attack on her livelihood. If she's unionized that's the first recourse; otherwise, and probably in addition: lawyer.
At the meeting they will spring something on her. Her instinct will be to respond then and there. But she doesn't have to.
posted by LonnieK at 6:22 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

If she belongs to a union, contact a steward ASAP and do it now. If it's late, email, but call first thing in the AM. For any kind of disciplinary meeting or formal meeting with HR, union members are usually allowed a union rep in the room with them. Be aware HR will not suggest it to you, and may even say that it isn't necessary. Don't hesitate to call if this applies to her - stewards have seen and heard it all and may have good suggestions and a listening ear in addition to providing support at a meeting.

If she belongs to any kind of professional organization, call them for advice on how to handle things. Find out how to get legal counsel/advice.

No matter what, have your relative stay calm as possible and at the meeting do not (even verbally) agree to or sign anything without requesting time to think about it (i.e. till Tuesday), consulting with someone else, or getting legal advice. HR is not the enemy, but their primary role is to protect and support the facility/corporation and management, not employees.

Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
posted by variella at 6:30 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Definitely speak with an attorney. The fact that she wasn't asked about any incident by nursing staff before the DoN told her not to come back is really odd. Also, the DoN saying she can't give any information about what the allegations are is concerning-if it's part of a large company, they may be discussing things with their attorneys.

Under NO circumstances should she sign ANYTHING without an attorney reviewing it first. It's possible that they may threaten her with criminal prosecution for elder abuse, even if they hint at that, she needs to get an attorney before she signs anything. Her best practice would be to have one with her at the meeting, but if she's not able to do that, she absolutely needs another person sitting with her. If the DoN refuses to let that person into the meeting, she needs to refuse the meeting until she has an attorney.

Nursing home admins can sometimes be pretty ugly. They're far more concerned with keeping the resident happy and have no problem cutting a CNA loose at all.

(Just an FYI, if she's merely fired and doesn't have assault charges with the state board or criminal courts, she can easily find another CNA position. Most agencies and nursing homes are shockingly forgiving when they are short staffed)
posted by hollygoheavy at 7:11 PM on March 5, 2014

Have her bring someone with her. Seriously.

And take notes.

Don't sign anything at that time. She needs to state she wants time for review.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:06 PM on March 5, 2014

What everyone else has said, plus record the entire meeting with a digital recording device.
posted by Kevtaro at 12:43 AM on March 6, 2014

record the entire meeting with a digital recording device
This may not be legal in their jurisdiction. Make sure it is before entertaining that idea.
posted by soelo at 9:50 AM on March 6, 2014

Predicting something has been stolen or reported as such. Sounds like the relative's concern is in having a charge of poor care or an event unreported per policy, but missing items would be a topic I would be prepared for in case of the management has more cards to play than you might be ready to properly react to upon hearing. Sign nothing and if they start in on police action if no resignation is forthcoming then be prepared to exit. I think the relative is fired in any case, they are setting up protection for the business.
posted by Freedomboy at 4:28 PM on March 6, 2014

I tried to put this in here yesterday but it didn't go and I'm not sure why, but one thing I'd try to do is find out, perhaps from other CNAs? or your lawyer could find out, how many other CNAs in this facility have been fired for complaints by the same resident.

Having worked in nursing homes for 11 years, I can say that there are some residents who are just always looking for something to complain about - and it's not unusual for them to claim that someone stole from them or hit them or treated them roughly. Of course, those things do happen, but not nearly as often as one might think from watching the news; whenever there is a legitimate case of patient abuse, it makes the news in a big way and that's exactly right - it should - most CNAs would agree with that. But there are some patients who claim things that just aren't true and when they do it to several different aides over a fairly short period of time, almost always new aides, with, conveniently, no witnesses - well. The nursing home business must treat each complaint as a legitimate, serious issue - again, that's the right thing to do. But at some point it can be noted that it's always the same patient and always someone new at the facility - and then, really, the nursing home should do something - cameras? - to confirm the abuse instead of automatically ruining any chance for the aide to continue a career in care giving whether guilty or not.

I'd fight this every way I could, and confirming it to be a recurring problem with the same patient is one place to start.

I must add that we had, over the years, a few residents who were distinctly prejudiced against persons of certain nationalities and honestly, sometimes they'd accuse them of serious things for just exactly that reason - nothing more.

The old are just like everyone else - some are not so righteous, but most are.
posted by aryma at 9:59 PM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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