Nursing Unprofessional Conduct

Posted in Licensing Defense

Nursing

As a nurse, you are duty-bound to care for and protect your patients.  This notion is taught from the first day of nursing school — and is reinforced throughout your career.  Yet too often, issues other than patient care seem to take priority in the world of nursing.

In California, anyone can make a complaint about a nurse to the board of nursing.  Moreover, these complaints can be made anonymously online, via the Board’s website. These complaints can be about any number of issues, from alleged patient mistreatment to the more nebulous “unprofessional conduct.”  When a nurse is accused of unprofessional conduct, it can have a serious impact on their career — and may even result in a loss of their license.

At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, help nurses protect their licenses. If you have been accused of unprofessional conduct, we will fight for you.  Please contact us today or call us at (619) 237-6310 to schedule a free initial consultation, where we will help you understand your rights and your options.

Who Regulates the Conduct of Nurses in California?

Registered nurses in California are regulated by the Board of Registered Nursing or BRN.  This board of nursing governs all aspects of the practice of nursing, from nursing education and training to the practice of nursing to licensing to disciplinary action.  The BRN consists of 9 members, including 4 members of the public and 5 registered nurses.

In addition to setting educational standards, approving California nursing programs, evaluating licensure applications, issuing and renewing licenses, and issuing certificates, the BRN performs a critical function: investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action.  If a nurse violates the Nursing Practice Act (NPA), then the board of nursing may take action against his or her license. The NPA is located with Section 2700 of the California Business and Professions Code.

How are Complaints of Unprofessional Conduct made?

A patient, family member, coworker, employer or member of the public may file a complaint alleging that a nurse has engaged in illegal activities or has otherwise violated the Nursing Practice Act.  A complaint may allege:

  • Gross negligence or incompetence
  • Unprofessional conduct
  • License application fraud
  • Misrepresentation
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Unlicensed activity

What is “Unprofessional Conduct” for Nurses?

The BRN, via the NPA and other regulations, specifically states that the following actions are considered unprofessional conduct:

  1. Incompetence, or gross negligence in carrying out usual certified or licensed nursing functions;
  2. A conviction of practicing medicine without a license;
  3. The use of advertising relating to nursing;
  4. Denial of licensure, revocation, suspension, restriction, or any other disciplinary action against a health care professional license or certificate by another state or territory of the United States, by any other government agency, or by another California health care professional licensing board;
  5. Procuring his or her certificate or license by fraud, misrepresentation, or mistake;
  6. Violating or attempting to violate, directly or indirectly, or assisting in or abetting the violating of, or conspiring to violate any provision or term of this chapter or regulations adopted pursuant to it;
  7. Making or giving any false statement or information in connection with the application for issuance of a certificate or license;
  8. Conviction of a felony or of any offense substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a registered nurse. The Board defines “substantially related” broadly and includes most (if not all) criminal convictions;
  9. Impersonating another certified or licensed practitioner, or permitting or allowing another person to use his or her certificate or license for the purpose of nursing the sick or afflicted;
  10. Aiding or assisting, or agreeing to aid or assist any person or persons, whether a licensed physician or not, in the performance of or arranging for, a violation of any of the provisions of Article 12 (commencing with Section 2220) of Chapter 5;
  11. Holding oneself out to the public or to any practitioner of the healing arts as a “nurse practitioner” or as meeting the standards established by the board for a nurse practitioner unless meeting the standards established by the board pursuant to Article 8 (commencing with Section 2834) or holding oneself out to the public as being certified by the board as a nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or public health nurse unless the person is at the time so certified by the board;
  12. Except for good cause, the knowing failure to protect patients by failing to follow infection control guidelines of the board, thereby risking transmission of blood-borne infectious diseases from licensed or certified nurse to patient, from patient to patient, and from patient to licensed or certified nurse.
  13. Failure to provide copies of documents within 15 days of a lawful request, unless unable to do so for good cause;
  14. Failure to cooperate and participate in any investigation pending against you;
  15. Failure to report a felony or misdemeanor conviction to the board or any disciplinary action taken by another licensing entity or authority; and
  16. Failure or refusal to comply with a court order regarding a subpoena for the release of records to the board.

Importantly, this is not an exhaustive list of behaviors that may be considered unprofessional conduct.

Combined, this legal scheme makes it possible for nurses to be liable for “unprofessional conduct” for a wide range of behaviors, many of which have nothing to do with the inherent practice of nursing. Some examples that our office sees includes:

  • Omitting information from your Nursing Application
  • Conviction of crime for conduct outside of work: DUI, disorderly conduct, shoplifting, etc.
  • Falsifying Medical Records
  • Diversion of Medication
  • Criminal Arrests
  • Violations of HIPAA
  • Inappropriate content on social media
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Intimate Relationship with a patient
  • Utilizing drugs or alcohol in a way that endangers or injures yourself or the public – including arriving to work under the influence
  • Practicing Outside the Scope of your License 
  • Harassment and/or abusive behavior towards patients and/or colleague – this includes singular events and patterns of behavior
  • Improper communication with supervisors, patients and/or colleagues

Defending Your California Nursing License

As a nurse, your license is your livelihood. At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, we understand and respect the importance of your nursing license—and do everything within our power to protect it.

Widely known and respected for her compassion and diligence, Ms. Irmer approaches each case with attention and care. She advocates for nurses and other health care providers who are facing disciplinary action or being investigated for wrongdoing. Ms. Irmer has represented countless nurses throughout California and has the experience to defend your rights and protect your future.

If you are under investigation for or have a formal accusation of unprofessional conduct filed against you, please contact us immediately at (619) 237-6130 to schedule an initial consultation with a San Diego nursing license defense attorney.