Public Reprimand | What Is It? Why They Are Important

| Posted in Licensing Defense on March 25, 2020

Public reprimand

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A public reprimand — which may also be referred to as reproval or may be called an “LPR” (Letter of Public Reprimand) — is a form of discipline meted out by every healthcare licensing board in California for minor violations of the law. While, for most Boards, this type of discipline does remain on your record, it typically does not include any restrictions on your license to practice. For this reason, it is often a preferred outcome of an investigative or disciplinary process — if the complaint itself cannot be dismissed.

If you are a doctor, dentist, nurse, physical therapist or another healthcare professional under investigation by your licensing board, a California healthcare license defense attorney can help to protect your license and your ability to work. Read on to learn about what a public reprimand is — and what you should do if you are under investigation or receive an Accusation.

What Is a Public Reprimand?

A public reprimand or reproval is a type of disciplinary action taken by Licensing Boards throughout California, including the Medical Board of California (MBC) and the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). It is typically issued for minor violations of the Healthcare Practice Act. If a professional receives a public reprimand or reproval, it may not result in any restrictions on their practice of medicine.

The MBC licenses and regulates physicians and surgeons within the state of California. The MBC can issue reprimands in two situations.

  1. The MBC Licensing program can issue a reprimand to an applicant for minor violations rather than requiring probation or denying the license.  This may be a desirable outcome for a physician because Licensing Program Reprimands are not considered discipline.
  2. The MBC has the authority to also issue reprimands to physicians who hold a California medical license.  A public reprimand issued for a violation of law is considered a lesser form of discipline.

As part of its mission, the MBC investigates violations of the Business and Professions Code. If a complaint is filed against a doctor licensed by the MBC or if a doctor is arrested for certain crimes, it triggers an investigative process.

An investigation may result in one of two outcomes: referral to the California Attorney General’s Office for disciplinary action, or closure of the complaint. If a disciplinary action — known as an Accusation — is filed, then the matter will either be resolved through a stipulated settlement or via an administrative hearing.

The MBC may issue different levels of discipline, including:

  • Citation
  • Reprimand
  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Revocation

Probationary actions involve conditions on a medical professional’s license, which restrict his/her ability to practice medicine autonomously. You can learn more about the various levels of discipline, via the Board’s Disciplinary Guidelines, here. Such restrictions may include revocation or limitations of DEA certificate, drug testing, and supervision.  Public Reprimands do not restrict a medical professional’s practice of medicine and maybe an advantageous disposition to allow the physician to continue practicing without limiting his/her ability to do so.

In 2019, the MBC issued 115 public reprimands of doctors in California.

Like the MBC, the BRN licenses and regulates nurses within the state of California. In order to protect the health and safety of the public, the BRN investigates licensed nurses under its jurisdiction for violations of the Nursing Practice Act. If a complaint is filed against a nurse, or if the nurse is arrested or convicted of certain crimes, the BRN may initiate an investigation into the nurse.

Based on the results of the investigation, the BRN may choose to close the complaint or to file a Formal Accusation against a nurse’s license. Depending on the facts of the case, the potential outcomes of an investigation include revocation, or suspension, voluntary surrender of a nursing license, probation, reprimand, a citation and fine, or closure of the matter.

A public reprimand or reproval is issued in situations where a nurse has committed a minor violation of the Nurse Practice Act. No restrictions are placed on a nurse’s license with a public reprimand.

The Letter of Public Reprimand is attached to a Nursing license and stays online (Breeze) for 3 years from the date of completion of the terms of the Reprimand (i.e., fines, see the BRN’s Public Internet Policy). It is important to be mindful of the date of completion because the three years begin after all conditions are satisfied – i.e. fines are paid, courses are completed, etc. So if you opt for a payment plan, the three-year publication timeline does not start until after the final payment has been made. However, Prior Discipline of the Letter of Reprimand may listed as a “Secondary Status” after the threes years has expired.

Beyond the BRN and the MBC, other healthcare licensing boards issue public reprimands, including:

If you are a healthcare professional under investigation by any of these licensing boards, you should reach out to a California professional license defense attorney for a consultation.

Is a Public Reprimand Better than Other Forms of Discipline?

In short: yes. While the ultimate goal in any healthcare license investigation is to have the complaint dismissed or issue a citation, if the MBC or BRN are going to issue discipline, then a public reprimand is likely the best outcome. There are two primary reasons why this is true.

As an initial matter, a public reprimand typically does not result in practice restrictions on a medical license or work as a nurse. In other words, your ability to work in your chosen profession and to earn a living will not be affected. This is critically important, particularly because other forms of discipline — such as suspension and revocation — will prevent you from working.

Beyond discipline on your license, a public reprimand will not result in other conditions. For example, if you are convicted of a DUI, you may be placed on Board probation with the MBC or the BRN. This will still allow you to work — but you may have other restrictions, such as employment supervision, attending 12 step meetings or submitting to random drug and alcohol testing. With a public reprimand, you will not be subject to these types of restrictions.

However, a public reprimand is still a form of discipline. The general public, colleagues, and potential employers can view the reprimand through the Breeze database as well as on the MBC and the BRN’s website. If you are going to be disciplined, however, it is likely the best option short of dismissal.

When an individual searches for a doctor or a nurse via Breeze, they will be able to view information about the Accusation against the medical professional. This includes the allegation made in a complaint.

A public reprimand may be issued pursuant to a stipulated settlement, or as the result of an administrative hearing. If you are currently under investigation or facing an Accusation by the MBC or the BRN, it is vital to consult with a California healthcare license defense attorney as soon as possible.  For a confidential, no-risk discussion of your legal options, we encourage you to contact us right away at (619) 237-6310 or email us at any time.

An investigation by the MBC, the BRN, or any other healthcare licensing body in California can be incredibly intimidating. If you find yourself in this position, you should reach out to an attorney who you can trust to guide you through the process and look out for your best interests.

Under Investigation or Received an Accusation? Our Public Reprimand Attorneys Can Help.

At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, we have significant experience handling investigations involving the following healthcare licensing boards:

We offer both compassion and skill, standing by your side throughout the process — from the initial notice of an investigation to the final resolution of your case.

Will a Public Reprimand Affect My Ability to Practice Medicine?

Not necessarily. A public reprimand is a form of discipline that a licensing board such as the Medical Board of California (MBC) may impose. While a public reprimand will appear on your license, it will not restrict your ability to practice as a doctor, nurse, or other professional.

For this reason, a public reprimand is often considered a favorable outcome, if it is not possible to have the complaint or Accusation dismissed entirely. Other forms of discipline, such as probation, suspension, and revocation, will either limit your ability to practice or prohibit you from working in your chosen profession entirely.

However, a public reprimand could affect your employment. Public Reprimands are published by the Board, via the Breeze DCA website. Additionally, if the allegations in a complaint are substantiated such that discipline is warranted, then-current or future employers may discharge you or refuse to hire you. For this reason, it is critical that you consult with a California healthcare license defense attorney as soon as possible after receiving notice of a complaint against you.

How Long Will a Public Reprimand Remain Online?

A public reprimand is, by its very nature, public. This means that the discipline will be announced publicly and that both the public and prospective employers can view a record of the discipline if they perform a search for your license. The length of time that this information will be available depends on the type of license that you have.

For physicians and surgeons licensed through the MBC, a public reprimand will be available on its website for a period of 10 years. This includes reprimands issued by boards of other states or jurisdictions within the past 10 years. For nurses who are licensed through the California Board of Registered Nurses (BRN), a record of public reprimand will remain accessible through the Breeze system for 3 years from the date of completion. It is important to note, that the clock does not start running until the conditions of the Reprimand are satisfied – specifically, all courses are completed and all fines are paid. 

Other licensing boards, such as the Dental Board of California and the Board of Pharmacy, have separate guidelines on the length of time that a public reprimand will be available online. If you have further questions about this issue, a medical board attorney can assist you.

What Information Is in a Public Reprimand?

A public letter of reprimand does not simply state that a healthcare professional has received this form of discipline. Instead, it provides details about the complaint against you and what sections of California’s Business and Professional Code you were found to have violated. In this way, the public is notified not just of the fact of the discipline, but the reason for the discipline.

For example, a complaint was filed against you with the MBC, alleging that you allowed medical assistants to start intravenous bag treatments on patients, which is outside the scope of their practice. The MBC found that this constitutes aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine as well as unprofessional conduct. If a public reprimand is issued, it will state the Board’s factual findings and conclusion that you violated Business and Professions Code 2052(b) and 2234. Additionally, the Board may also include the underlying Accusation within the Letter of Reprimand or may post it separately on the licensee’s Breeze profile. As such, the Accusation may be available to be viewed by anyone who views a licensee’s profile.

If you are under investigation by your licensing board, we can help. We will develop a comprehensive strategy to resolve any accusations of professional misconduct or legal violations. For a confidential, no-risk discussion of your legal options, we encourage you to contact us right away at (619) 237-6310 or email us at any time.