There is some concern about whether the healthcare industry’s response to COVID-19 will affect the way it addresses concerns about nursing performance, similar to recent concerns about an apparent drop in physician discipline since the pandemic began. So far, data related to nursing discipline are not showing any decline.

That may be because the data have not caught up with any possible drop in discipline, says Dawn Kappel, director of marketing and communications for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), an independent, not-for-profit organization based in Chicago that collaborates with nursing regulatory bodies.

Kappel explains there is no evidence showing a drop or a rise in discipline by nursing boards across the country in the period since the pandemic began. The reason could be there has been no change, or there has been a change, but the data do not reflect it yet.

For physicians, there appears to be some evidence suggesting a decline in disciplinary actions. Data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), shows that compared to the previous year, emergency actions against physician licenses dropped 59% in April through June 2020.

Data from the Federation of State Medical Boards’ Physician Data Center (PDC) shows a 14% decline in disciplinary actions from January to June 2020.

Kappel does note there are more nurses than doctors, and that nurses provide care around the clock, so more patient encounters during the COVID-19 response could result in an increase in reports requiring discipline. But those actions typically take a long time to generate national data.

“If a nurse were to start the discipline process, for everything to be adjudicated and put in the system for aggregate data, it’s too soon,” Kappel says. “None of our boards has reported that they’re overwhelmed with discipline problems. There may be a board out there that is experiencing problems, or even a board that is seeing a dramatic drop in discipline, but we’re not hearing either one of those responses right now.”

(Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, please see the story that was published in the November 2020 issue of Hospital Peer Review.)


  • Dawn Kappel, Director, Marketing and Communications, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Chicago. Phone: (312) 525-3600. Email: