Orange County Nursing License Defense Lawyer

Nursing is one of the most demanding jobs out there. In addition to being physically taxing, being a nurse can also be emotionally draining. Yet nursing is also rewarding, as you get to provide direct patient care and truly make a difference in the lives of your patients. 

The State of California licenses the practice of nursing for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice nurses, and licensed vocational nurses. A violation of the rules governing nursing could result in disciplinary action, up to and including revocation of a nursing license. These actions often start with a complaint about a nurse, which may be made by a member of the public, a coworker, an insurance company, or a prosecutor.

Disciplinary action can have a serious effect on your career and ability to earn a living. An experienced Orange County nursing license defense attorney can put together a strong defense and work with you to achieve a favorable outcome. If you are under investigation by your nursing board, reach out to the Law Offices of Nicole Irmer to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.

How Nurses in California Are Regulated

There are two boards that regulate the practice of nursing in California: the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) and the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT). These boards are tasked with setting standards for the practice of nursing and protecting the public through licensure and enforcement.

Any California nurse is familiar with the various standards that must be met in order to become licensed in the state. After licensure, the BRN and BVNPT will continue their regulation of nursing through investigation and enforcement of the laws governing nurses. Generally, if a nurse violates the Business and Professions Code, they could face disciplinary action.

In most cases, disciplinary actions start with a complaint. Anyone can file a complaint, including patients, family members, colleagues, supervisors, insurance companies, or other members of the public. If a nurse was arrested or has been charged with a crime (such as a DUI), then the referral may come from a law enforcement agency or prosecutor’s office. 

The BRN or BVNPT will then assign an investigator to the complaint. This individual may work for the Board or may be employed by the Department of Consumer Affairs.  The investigator will typically review the complaint, analyze related records, and reach out to the licensee for an interview.

Importantly, you should not talk to an investigator for the Board without legal representation. Anything that you say to them could be used against you as part of the disciplinary process. It may also be the basis of criminal charges in certain cases. A seasoned Orange County nursing license defense attorney can respond to requests for documents and prepare you for any Board interview. 

Once the investigation has been completed, the Board may do one of three things: (1) close the file without further action; (2) impose a nondisciplinary sanction; or (3) proceed with the disciplinary process.  If the Board decides to move forward, then the matter will be sent to the Office of the Attorney General for further evaluation.

In conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, the Board may decide to file a formal Accusation, a charging document listing the allegations. Essentially, an Accusation sets out the facts of the case against a nurse and lists the legal basis for disciplinary action. Once a formal Accusation has been filed, the potential for disciplinary action is high, but not a foregone conclusion.

An Orange County healthcare license defense lawyer can often negotiate a more favorable outcome through a stipulated settlement. Alternatively, they may take the case to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). At this hearing, they will present a factual and legal defense, along with mitigating evidence. This may lead to a better outcome for a licensee, such as a license suspension or probation instead of revocation.

It is critical that all nurses understand that the disciplinary process can lead to the loss of their ability to work as a nurse, either for a short period of time or for years. It may also lead to restrictions on their nursing license, which can make it difficult to get a job. If you are under investigation by your nursing board, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to protect your license and your livelihood.

Nursing Board Disciplinary Actions

BRN and BVNPT may take action based on any violation of the Business and Professions Code related to nursing.​​ This may include:

  • Misrepresentation
  • Unprofessional conduct
  • Gross negligence or incompetence
  • Medical records errors
  • Unlicensed activity
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • License application fraud
  • Criminal Conviction
  • Failure to report child and/or elder abuse or neglect

An investigation does not always lead to disciplinary action. In some cases, it may be resolved by closing the complaint file or through a nondisciplinary action such as a citation and fine or a warning. However, if the case moves forward, then potential consequences include:

Keep in mind that disciplinary action is public through the BreEZe system. This means that any member of the public – including potential employers – can look up your disciplinary record. Early intervention in the disciplinary process by a skilled attorney may often mean resolving the case without formal disciplinary action.

There are some alternative ways to resolve disciplinary issues related to chemical dependency or mental health issues. The BRN offers an intervention program that can lead to the Accusation against you being withdrawn. While there are benefits to intervention, it has drawbacks – including license suspension for a period of time, an oversight that can feel invasive, and disciplinary action if you don’t finish the program. Your Orange County nursing license defense lawyer can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of the nursing intervention program so that you can make an informed decision about what to do.

The potential consequences for violating the Business and Professions Code as a nurse are harsh. Yet it is possible to resolve a complaint or Accusation favorably, including through nondisciplinary action or a lower level of discipline (such as probation) instead of a suspension or revocation of your license.  An Orange County nursing license defense attorney will develop a proactive strategy that is designed to reduce the impact on your career and that may also help you get the help that you need.

Facing a Nursing Board Investigation? We Can Help. 

Being a nurse can be stressful, between long shifts, understaffing, and demands from physicians, patients, and their families. We know that even the most conscientious nurses can have a bad day or make a mistake. Our goal is to work with our clients to develop a strong defense against any complaint or Accusation against you.

At the Law Offices of Nicole Irmer, we offer compassionate legal representation to nurses in all types of licensing and disciplinary matters. We have substantial experience representing California healthcare professionals before their licensing boards, which we put to work for our clients to help them achieve the best possible result for their cases. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with an Orange County nursing license defense attorney, call our office at 619-237-6130 or fill out our online contact form.