Each year, the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) receives an average of 7,715 complaints about nurses and other professionals licensed by the Board. In a three year period from 2014 through 2017, the BRN handled a total of 3,333 disciplinary cases. Each of these cases involved a potential discipline of public reproval, probation, suspension, or revocation/nursing license revoked.
A revocation is the highest level of discipline handed out by the BRN. If your nursing license is revoked, you will no longer be able to practice as a nurse. You are also prohibited from using the title of nurse.
If you are under investigation by the BRN for a violation of the Nursing Practice Act (NPA) — or think that you may be investigated by the BRN — your first step should be to contact a seasoned California nursing license defense attorney. With the assistance of a compassionate, skilled lawyer, you may be able to protect your license as well as your livelihood.
The BRN may begin an investigation into a nurse under its jurisdiction after receiving a complaint from a member of the public, a patient or loved one, a colleague, a hospital, and ex-friend/significant other, or another person or entity. It may also begin an investigation after learning that a nurse has been charged with a criminal offense via the Department of Justice (if you have been fingerprinted), or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony (as the Court, Prosecutor, and Nurse all have a requirement to notify the Board – you may learn more about disclosures, here).
You may learn that you are under investigation when investigators conduct interviews of co-workers or begin to gather evidence related to the alleged violation. You may also receive a letter, email or phone call from an Investigator tasked by either the BRN or the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigations.
If you are contacted by an investigator or otherwise discover that you are under investigation, you should contact an attorney immediately. In some cases, the matter may be resolved at the investigation stage, particularly if your lawyer is experienced and knowledgeable in licensing matters. It is important to note that investigations are “confidential;” as such, if the matter is resolved during the investigation phase, the allegations against you will not be published to the BRN’s website.
After investigation, the BRN may determine that no violation was committed. If it believes that a violation occurred, the BRN will initiate disciplinary proceedings. This is done by filing an Accusation. A copy of the Accusation will be sent to you at the address you have listed on Breeze. If your address is outdated, the Board will send the Accusation to your old address, and you may lose your opportunity to defend against the Accusation, and may ultimately lose your license via a Default Decision.
An Accusation is a formal document that lists the reasons why the BRN is seeking authority to discipline you. At the end of the Accusation, the BRN will request that your license be revoked. Reading this document can cause tremendous anxiety, particularly when you are afraid that you will lose your ability to practice as a nurse and continue to care for patients and their families.
If you receive an Accusation, you need to be proactive so that you can protect your license from revocation. There are a number of steps that an experienced nursing license defense attorney can take at this stage, from raising affirmative defenses to filing the Notice of Defense to preparing both for a hearing and for a possible settlement to allow you to keep your license.
There is a range of reasons why the BRN may revoke a nurse’s license. It is a recommended disciplinary action for the following violations:
In addition, if an Administrative Law Judge decides at a hearing that a nurse is not capable of safe practice, then the BRN recommends license revocation.
As demonstrated by the above list, your nursing license may be revoked for a litany of different reasons — from failing to report suspected abuse, to improper medication waste, to even a criminal arrest or conviction. Significantly, while the BRN recommends revocation in these matters, there is still an opportunity to argue that the disciplinary action should be something less than revocation, such as probation or public reproval instead. In some cases, it may also be possible to argue that no disciplinary action is warranted, and the Accusation should be withdrawn.
The BRN considers a number of factors in deciding whether a nurse’s license should be revoked or suspended, or if they should be placed on probation. These factors include:
Each situation is different — which makes it possible for an experienced California nursing license defense attorney to make a case for why your nursing license should not be revoked. The key is to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible so that you can collaborate on a factual and legal defense to the allegations against you and help to develop mitigating evidence.
There are few experiences more daunting than learning that your nursing license may be revoked. When you are in this position, you need an advocate who you can trust, and who has significant skill in handling these matters. The Law Office of Nicole Irmer offers compassionate, adept representation for nurses at all stages of the disciplinary process before the BRN.
Based in San Diego, our team focuses on helping California nurses who are facing investigations, formal Accusations, and possible license revocation. We take a holistic approach to professional license defense, working to develop strategies that demonstrate our clients’ competence and qualifications as a nurse. As a nurse, you are more than your worst mistake — and we can help you prove it.