You could be asked to write a statement for an investigation at work, in response to a complaint, or about an unexpected incident. These are the main points to consider
- Don’t rush. You should never have to write and submit a statement immediately. It’s fine for an employer to set a deadline, but you should still have reasonable time to prepare your statement and get it checked by the RCN.
- Know what you’re writing about. You should be given a clear instruction or question in writing. If you haven’t been given this, ask for it.
- Consider if you’re at risk. If your conduct or practice is being questioned by your employer or agency, then – provided you were a member at the time of the incident – use the RCN’s statement checking service accessed via RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100. If you’re being asked to provide a statement purely as a witness, and you don’t believe there is any risk to you, simply follow our guidance – we don’t need to check it.
- Be clear. Your statement should explain events from start to finish as clearly and simply as possible. Explain when things happened, who was there, and what you did, saw and heard. Try to avoid offering an opinion not based on facts.
- Be relevant. Do your best to answer the question or allegation you have been set. If you can’t remember something, say so. Very few people can perfectly recall every event that’s ever happened to them.
- Be compliant. If you’re a registered nurse, follow the NMC Code of Conduct, particularly the ‘Promote professionalism and trust’ section. Ensure you follow your employer’s local policies and confidentiality guidelines too.
- List all documents referenced in your statement. If possible, state where to find them.
- Format your statement. Add page and paragraph numbers, double space your lines and ensure pages have clear wide margins at each side.
- Check it. Review each paragraph carefully, checking that your statement only communicates exactly what was asked for or required. Look at whether you can provide evidence for the facts stated. Check the facts you provide are clearly and objectively explained.
- Keep a copy. You may need to refer to it in the future.
The RCN’s statement writing guidance covers these tips in more detail, has a statement writing template you can use, and provides guidance on what to do if you are asked for a statement in other contexts such as if a coroner or the police ask you for a statement.
- Avoid general sentences like ‘500mg of paracetamol was given’ or ‘observations were made’. Instead state who gave the paracetamol, who made the observations, and what observations were made. Avoid jargon, as people reading your statement may not understand it.
- The identities of patients and members of the public should be kept anonymous. For example, use ‘Patient X’ throughout the statement.
Why is this so important?
"Handing in a poor statement can be the difference between resolving an investigation or things being escalated to a disciplinary or NMC hearing," says Nathan Arthur from the RCN's statement checking team.
"Not having a clear or relevant statement means that you might be asked to write another, attend an investigation meeting or the investigation is escalated further.
"A non-compliant statement, such as where information is provided which could identify a patient or member of the public could, in and of itself, lead to serious action to be taken against you by your employer and the NMC."