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What happens when nurses face career-threatening consequences?

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2021 | Healthcare License Defense

The California Board of Registered Nurses (BRN) licenses and regulates registered nurses in California. Their responsibilities come from the Nursing Practice Act, which is composed of statutes that give the BRN, among other functions, the authority to investigate complaints and take disciplinary action against registered nurses. The Board’s Enforcement Program handles these investigation and disciplinary processes.

The Board Enforcement Program has the authority to investigate any claims brought by any individual who suspects that the licensee is engaged in illegal activities related to their professional responsibilities.

Possible disciplinary action

Violations may result in disciplinary action. The BRN has the authority to discipline a registered nurse for violations that include:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Practicing nursing without a license
  • Mental impairment that affects patient care
  • Unprofessional conduct
  • Failure to meet the standard of care
  • Criminal conviction

After an investigation by the board, they may choose to move forward with a formal charge or accusation. A formal administrative hearing may also take place in which an administrative law judge issues a decision. Although it is preferred to have the outcome of the board investigation be a dismissal or a withdrawn accusation, probation may be an option.

Steps to protect your rights

The first step involves drafting a formal response to a BRN inquiry to prevent the disclosure of unnecessary information and, hopefully, avoid further investigation. Should investigations proceed, proactive representation is paramount during disciplinary proceedings to protect rights, reputations, and a professional license.

Five stages in defending nursing licenses include:

Complaint or criminal charges filed

The Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) Enforcement Program accepts online complaints from both the public and anonymous parties alleging violations of the law, regulations, or professional standards. If a complaint is found to fall under board jurisdiction, it will be referred to one of twelve district offices for investigation by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).

The California Board of Nursing disciplines nurses when it receives a complaint from a patient, doctor, hospital, or anonymous party. The BRN also takes action when a nurse is convicted of a crime. Disciplinary or criminal actions taken against them in another state require reporting the information to the California NURSYS national database.

Interview with the board investigator

If there was a complaint filed against you, a BRN investigator may have reached out to you already and will want to set up an interview with you. You may have also received a letter asking for your authorization to release records such as those related to your employment.

Filing of formal accusation

Knowledge is power during an investigation. You must have a thorough understanding of the accusations against you, the specific timelines and deadlines, the role BreEZe plays, and how investigators use the online system.

Interactions with The Board of Registered Nursing will include discussions over surrendering your license and possible reimbursement for investigation costs. From there, we will focus on practical strategies and possible appearances before the Department of Justice, Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

The objective is to secure the best possible outcome through effective defense strategies tailored to your specific case. In the end, the goal is to protect your professional reputation and minimize, if not eliminate, the consequences you may be facing.

Formal administration hearing

Preparing for the Office of Administrative Hearings will go beyond the hearing’s location. Timelines for a judge’s decision are based on the severity of the accusations. Exploring the best possible outcome may involve specific scenarios that include retaining a license on a probationary basis.

Filing an appeal/requesting reinstatement or penalty reduction

You should know that an adverse ruling that results in the loss of your license is not the end of your case. Formally known as a Writ of Administrative Mandamus, you can appeal the decision within 30 days. That process will include petitions for surrendering your license or having it revoked.

Appearing before the California Court of Appeals provides you a second chance and the possibility of reinstatement and penalty relief. Other options include early termination of probation and modifications of the penalties imposed by the Office of Administrative Hearings.

Careers are at stake when a nurse is under investigation for misconduct. Nurses are held to a high ethical standard and any infraction can result in potentially severe consequences.

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