California Nursing License Placed on Probation

| Posted in Licensing Defense on June 24, 2021

There are few careers more rewarding than nursing. As a nurse, you provide direct patient care, helping people through some of the most challenging times in their lives. Yet being a nurse can also be stressful, and requires compliance with a set of strict rules imposed by the state’s licensing board.

In California, if you violate the law related to the practice of nursing, you may be subject to disciplinary action. One possible consequence of a violation is probation. During probation, you can still practice as a nurse, subject to strict limits on your license as well as probation terms.

While probation is not the optimal outcome for all cases, if suspension or revocation is a possible disciplinary action, it may be preferred. If you are under investigation for a violation of California’s nursing laws, a compassionate San Diego professional license defense can help you defend your license and your livelihood.

What Is Probation?

The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) has the authority to discipline a registered nurse (RN) for a violation of the Nursing Practice Act. Depending on the severity and recency of the conduct, current ability to practice safely, evidence of rehabilitation, mitigating factors, and past disciplinary history, the BRN may take one or more of the following disciplinary actions:

In some cases, the BRN may impose a suspension or revocation of a nurse’s license, and stay that disciplinary action. If a suspension or revocation is stayed, then the disciplinary action will be temporarily set aside and the licensee will be able to practice as a RN with a restricted license under a period of probation. If the nurse successfully completes probation, then the revocation or suspension order will be lifted. A probation violation may result in the stay being lifted and the original disciplinary action being imposed.

The BRN may order probation for any number of violations, including drug or alcohol abuse, gross negligence or incompetence that endangers patients, practicing nursing without a license, mental impairment that affects the ability to provide appropriate patient care, unprofessional conduct and failure to meet the standard of care. In addition, the Board may discipline a nurse who has a misdemeanor or felony criminal conviction that is substantially related to the qualifications of a nurse. For example, if a nurse is convicted of a DUI, then they might face disciplinary action by the BRN.

After an investigation by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the BRN may choose to move forward with a formal charge, or Accusation. If an Accusation is filed and the parties do not reach a stipulated settlement, the next step is an administrative hearing. The administrative law judge will issue a decision, including a recommended disciplinary action. The Board will then adopt that decision and the discipline – such as probation – will be imposed.

While the preferred outcome of any Board investigation is to have the complaint dismissed and/or the Accusation withdrawn, there may be situations where probation is the best possible result. In particular, if there is a possibility of losing your RN license through suspension or revocation, then probation might be favorable. A skilled San Diego healthcare license defense attorney can work with you to help you achieve the best outcome for your case.

What Terms Will My Probation Include?

According to the BRN’s disciplinary guidelines, a period of probation should be a minimum of 3 years. The Board will also impose specific conditions of probation, which fall into two categories: standard conditions, which appear in all probation orders, and optional conditions, which may be used for certain violations.

There are thirteen standard probation terms:

  1. Obey All Laws: the licensee must obey all federal, state and local laws, and report any violation of the law to the Board within 72 hours.
  2. Comply With Board’s Probation Program: the licensee must cooperate with the Board and its representatives in monitoring their probation.
  3. Report in Person: the licensee must appear in person at all interviews or meetings required by the BRN.
  4. Residency or Practice Outside of State: the licensee must inform the Board of any change or residency or practice outside of the state of California. Periods of residency or practice as a RN in another state will not apply to the probation time period.
  5. Submit Written Reports: the licensee must submit all required reports related to their compliance with the probation program.
  6. Function as a Registered Nurse: during probation, the licensee must engage in the practice of nursing at least 24 hours per week for 6 consecutive months.
  7. Employment Approval and Reporting Requirements: the licensee must obtain prior approval from the Board before starting or continuing any employment as a registered nurse, and provide a copy of the decision in their disciplinary matter to their employer.
  8. Supervision: the licensee must only practice under the direct supervision of a registered nurse in good standing, unless another method of supervision has been approved.
  9. Employment Limitations: the licensee cannot work in certain health care settings for this period of time, including as a traveling nurse, a home health nurse, at a temporary nurse placement agency or in a private duty position.
  10. Complete a Nursing Course(s): the licensee must enroll and complete a nursing course, at their own expense.
  11. Cost Recovery (Does not apply to Applicants): a licensee must pay all costs associated with investigation and enforcement to the Board.
  12. Violation of Probation: if the licensee violates the conditions of probation, the Board may set aside a stay order and impose the stayed discipline (revocation/suspension) of their license.
  13. License Surrender: if the licensee stops practicing during probation, they may surrender their license to the Board.

Optional conditions of probation include:

  1. Physical Examination: the licensee must submit to a physical examination related to their capability to perform the duties of a registered nurse within 45 days of the imposition of the disciplinary order.
  2. Participate in Treatment/Rehabilitation Program for Chemical Dependence: the licensee must complete a Board-approved treatment or rehabilitation program that is at least 6 months in duration. In addition, the licensee must attend at least one 12 step recovery meeting per week throughout the entire period of probation.
  3. Abstain From Use of Psychotropic (Mood-Altering) Drugs: the licensee shall not use any mind-altering drugs (including alcohol) unless prescribed by a healthcare professional. If the licensee is prescribed a mind-altering medication, then they must provide information regarding the prescription to the Board.
  4. Submit to Tests and Samples: the licensee must submit to random blood and/or urine tests through a drug screening program.
  5. Mental Health Examination: within 45 days of the disciplinary order, the licensee must have a mental health examination to determine their capability to perform the duties of a registered nurse.
  6. Therapy or Counseling Program: the licensee is required to participate in an ongoing counseling program until the Board releases them from this requirement.
  7. Actual Suspension of License: the licensee is suspended from the practice of registered nursing for a specified period of time.

Conditions 14 through 19 are typically added if the violation involved chemical dependency (abuse of alcohol and/or controlled substances), but can be added for other offenses as well. For violations involving unfitness to practice due to mental illness, conditions 14, 18 and 19 are recommended. Importantly, any of these conditions may be included if warranted by the violation.

Significantly, a violation of one or more of these conditions may lead to a revocation or suspension of your RN license. Because complying with these terms can be onerous, it is vital that you understand exactly what is required of you. If you have any questions about the terms of probation, consult with your nursing license defense attorney.

Experienced Help for Nurses Facing a Board Complaint

We know that even the best nurses might make mistakes or struggle at some point during their careers. If you find yourself facing a BRN investigation after making an error or having a lapse in judgment, we are here to help.

At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, our practice is dedicated to helping nurses and other professionals through all stages of the disciplinary process. With substantial experience and knowledge of the law, we advocate for our clients to achieve the best possible outcome. For a confidential, no-risk discussion of your legal options with a compassionate nurse license defense attorney, call us right away at (619) 237-6310 or email us at any time.