Guide Nursing mandatory abuse reporting

Several Massachusetts laws and regulations have specific requirements for nurses to report suspected patient abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, and abuse of a disabled person to their respective divisions in State Government.

Board of Registration in Nursing: Duty to Report Abuse

All nurses who directly observe another nurse engaged in the abuse of a patient must report that nurse to the Board as stated in 244 CMR 9.03(26)(a).

Board regulations define abuse as any impermissible or unjustifiable contact or communication with a patient which in any way harms or intimidates, or is likely to harm or intimidate, a patient.  Abuse may be verbal or non-verbal, and may cause physical, sexual, mental, or emotional harm as stated in 244 CMR 9.02.

How to report

Complete the nursing complaint form and submit it to the Board at:

Board of Registration in Nursing
239 Causeway St., 
Suite 500, 5th Floor, 
Boston, MA 02114

Additional Resources

Patient abuse in nursing homes, rest homes, home health, and hospice

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 111, Section 72G requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to suspect patient or resident abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and/or misappropriation of their property must report the situation. As stated in 105 CMR 155.003, abuse includes:

  • Willful infliction of injury
  • Unreasonable confinement
  • Intimidation or punishment resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish, or assault and battery
  • Verbal or mental abuse with a knowing and willful act directed at a specific patient or resident

How to report

If you are a nurse who suspects abuse, neglect, mistreatment and/or misappropriation must immediately make an oral report to your supervisor or employer. Upon receiving such report, your supervisor or employer must immediately notify the Department of Public Health (DPH) by oral communication, an electronically transmitted report, or facsimile. Oral reports must be followed by a written report within 48 hours to DPH (105 CMR 155).

Oral reports

To make an oral report, you must call (800) 462-5540.

Written reports

Mail all written reports to:

Division of Health Care Facility Licensure and Certification
Complaint Intake Unit
99 Chauncy Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111

or, send reports by fax to (617) 753-8165. 

Find more information about Facility Reporting to Department of Public Health with forms for specific healthcare settings.

Failure to report

DPH will report to the Attorney General and the appropriate registration board. Punishment for failing to make a required oral or written report of suspected abuse is a fine of up to $1,000 and disciplinary action by the board.

Child abuse

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 119, Section 51A requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from:

  • Abuse inflicted which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, including sexual abuse
  • Neglect, including malnutrition
  • Physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth
  • Being a sexually exploited child
  • Being a human trafficking victim

must immediately communicate with the Department of Children & Families (DCF) orally and, within 48 hours, submit a written report to DCF detailing the suspected abuse or neglect.

How to report

You are required to immediately report all accounts of witnessed or suspected child abuse and/or neglect to the DCF Area Office Screening Unit that serves the child’s residence. See the mandated reporter's guide to child abuse and neglect reporting for a directory of area offices.

Offices are staffed weekdays between 9 a.m5 p.m.

To make a report at any other time, including after 5 p.m. and on weekends and holidays, call the Child-At-Risk Hotline at (800) 7925200.

Additional information and the form for filing a written report can be obtained from the local DCF Area Office or from the DCF's how to report child abuse or neglect.

Failure to report

If you fail to make required oral and written reports of witnessed or suspected child abuse and/or neglect, you will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

If you willfully fail to report child abuse and/or neglect that results in serious bodily injury or death, you will be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 2½ years in jail. You will be reported to your professional licensing authority. 

If you knowingly and willfully file a frivolous report shall be punished by:

  • 1st offense: a fine of not more than $2,000
  • 2nd offense: imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 6 months and a fine of not more than $2,000 for the second offense
  • 3rd and subsequent offenses: imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 21/2 years and a fine of not more than $2,000

Additional Resources

Elder abuse

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 19A, Section 15 requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to believe that an elderly person is suffering from or has died as a result of abuse must immediately make an oral report and submit a written report within 48 hours.

Elder abuse is defined as an act or omission which results in serious physical or emotional injury to an elderly person or financial exploitation of an elderly person; or the failure, inability, or resistance of an elderly person to provide for himself or herself 1 or more of the necessities essential for physical and emotional well-being without which the elderly person would be unable to safely remain in the community.

Forms of abuse include:

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Neglect
  • Financial exploitation
  • Self-neglect

However, no person is considered to be abused or neglected for the sole reason that such person is being furnished or relies upon treatment in accordance with the tenets and teachings of a church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof.

How to report

All reports of elder abuse, including self-neglect, must be made immediately to the appropriate designated Protective Services (PS) agency or the statewide Elder Abuse Hotline (800) 9222275, active 24/7.

Typically, elder abuse reports are made to PS agencies during normal business hours and to the Hotline during after-hours periods, on weekends and holidays.

Find additional information, including acts that constitute elder abuse and reporting forms from the Protective Services Program.

If you report suspected abuse, the law provides you with immunity from  from any civil or criminal liability that otherwise could result from making a report, provided that you did not commit the abuse.

Failure to report

If you fail to make an elder abuse reports, you will be subject to a fine up to $1,000.

Key Actions

Abuse of a person with disabilities

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 19C, Section 10 requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to believe that a person with disabilities is abused must report the situation to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC).

Abuse of persons with disabilities includes acts of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal abuse, and omission by a caregiver of a person with a physical disability between the ages of 1859.

Abuse of persons with disabilities under age 18 must be reported as child abuse and if older than 59 as elder abuse (see above).

In addition to reporting suspected abuse and neglect, you are also required to report to the DPPC all cases in which an individual with a disability has died, regardless of whether or not abuse or neglect is suspected.

How to report

Oral reports

Nurses who suspect abuse must make an oral report to the DPPC at (800)4269009, which operates on a 24/7.

Written reports

The oral report must be followed by a written report within 48 hours sent to:

Intake Unit
DPPC
300 Granite Street
Suite 404
Braintree MA 02184

or, send reports by fax to (617) 7276469. 

Find additonal information and reporting forms at DPPC abuse report

Failure to report

If you fail to make oral and written reports required by this law to report witnessed or suspected abuse or neglect of a person with a disability, you will be subject to a fine up to $1,000.

Additional Resources

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