Every year, California’s (BRN) Board of Registered Nursing receives 7,715 complaints on average against nurses and other board-licensed professionals. In three years (from 2014 to 2017), the board handled 3,333 disciplinary-related cases. Each case involved a possible discipline of suspension, probation, public reproval, or revocation.

License revocation is the harshest discipline the BRN imposes. If the board revokes your license, you’ll not be in a position to continue with your nursing career anymore. You’ll also be forbidden from using or bearing the ‘nurse’ title. So what could make the BRN revoke your license and, thus leading to you losing your career? Let’s find out.

Criminal Activity

The following criminal activity can lead to you losing your license:

  1. Substance Abuse

Specifically, the California BRN can discipline you for any action involving drugs, such as consuming alcohol or drugs in a dangerous way to yourself, patients, or other people. The board can discipline you when this kind of abuse occurs. Also, the board can discipline you if you’ve been found guilty of any controlled substance/device-related crime per the state’s definition of a controlled substance. This authority extends to crimes concerning the illegal use, distribution, or possession of illegal drugs. Even if you aren’t found guilty of an offense but are confined or committed by any court due to addiction, the board could take disciplinary action against you.

  1. Driving Under the Influence

The BRN also has jurisdiction to take disciplinary action against you if you drive while intoxicated with alcohol or other substance that can likely cause injury. For example, if you are involved in a vehicle accident caused by DUI and the accident results in injury upon another, the board can discipline you.

  1. Failure to Report a Previous Felony or Misdemeanor Conviction

Because most of the possible disciplinary actions have to do with convictions, it’s critical to understand what a conviction means. If you plead guilty, are found guilty by the court’s verdict, or plead no contest, this constitutes a conviction and gives the BRN the legal right to discipline you, including revoking your license.

As a nurse in California, you’re obligated to report any conviction and other info to the BRN. You have to report any misdemeanor or felony convictions substantially related to your professional activities and duties. You also must report any convictions that have to do with professional misconduct and any court orders where you’re ordered to enroll in an out-patient or in-patient drug or alcohol abuse program.

If you don’t report the convictions or situations mentioned above, and the BRN discovers this omission, you could lose your license to practice. Often state boards are notified by courts when convictions affect licensed professionals. Also, professionals’ info is cross-indexed with directories for given professionals to make the notification and connection. A nurse must also provide their fingerprints to the BRN so the board can continue being notified if the nurse is found guilty of an offense after initially becoming licensed.

Failure to Pay Taxes

Effective July 2012, virtually all certified professionals in California face a possible loss of their practicing license (and their privilege to drive) if they appear among the top five hundred largest tax defaulters. For example, if you are a licensed nurse and are on the state’s top tax defaulters list, you will face suspension or denial of your license to practice when you reapply for it.

You’ll then have ninety days from the issuance of a preliminary notice of suspension to either pay all your outstanding tax obligations or enroll in a payment program. And if you fail to comply with either of these two options, you’ll be denied your license until the licensing department, commission, board, or any other body receives a release from the state’s tax authorities.

Failing to Record Your Fingerprints

Title 16 Sections 1419, 1419.1, and 1419.3 of the Code of Regulations provides that you submit your fingerprints when you renew your professional license if the Board didn’t previously fingerprint you or if the record of your fingerprints doesn’t exist anymore. Effective 2010, the BRN has enforced compulsory background information and fingerprints on nurses who seek to renew their licenses. If you fail to submit your fingerprint to the Department of Justice (DOJ) before or on the required license renewal date, the BRN may discipline you, including revoking your license.

Inappropriate Activity on Social Media

The BRN takes the privacy of patients very seriously. Thus, if you publish anything that violates patient privacy on social media platforms, the board can launch an investigation against you. This could include posts with:

  • A patient’s videos and photos

  • Identifying patients by their name or unique characteristics

The BRN equally discourages posts that actively promote healthcare services/service providers, belittle them, or take a stand on controversial healthcare topics. Posts that show you in any compromising situation (for instance, using vulgar language or misusing alcohol/drugs) could also trigger an investigation against you by the board.

Out-of-State Disciplinary Activity

Any activity that attracts a disciplinary action in another state is a common grounds for nursing discipline in California, under applicable laws that permit the BRN to impose collateral discipline against a nurse who is censured or disciplined by another state’s licensing board. This is the case even if the licensing board isn’t necessarily a nursing board.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Violations

Other conditions that can lead to losing your nursing license or other disciplinary measures by licensing boards are specific to the healthcare industry. For instance, if you are a nurse in California, violating the HIPAA can at times cause a revocation of your license. Actions considered as a violation of the HIPAA include:

  • Posting PHI (Protected Health Information) on social media sites

  • Stealing PHI to your advantage

  • Giving PHI to your new employer

  • Carelessly disposing of PHI

  • Taking PHI of patients under another nurse’s care

  • Placing PHI where a stranger can access it

  • Gossiping about sensitive information or condition of a patient to friends or family members

  • Using another worker’s login in information to access PHI

  • Sharing PHI to a person who isn’t permitted to know about it

Even if it was an accidental violation, you have to report the incident to your supervisor or Private Officer, or you’ll face the consequences. A serious HIPAA rules violation is likely to lead to disciplinary action by the board, Including sanctions and license termination even if you did so without any malicious intent,

Failure to Meet the Acceptable Standard of Care

As a nurse, you are expected to be more careful whenever handling patients because one mistake could forever impact an individual’s life. You are obliged to make sure you exercise care in anything because you also utilize sharp objects such as blades and needles that must be handled extra carefully. Should you fail to meet this standard of care and a patient sustains an injury because of your negligence, you risk losing your nursing license.

Refusal to Submit to Drug Testing or Failing the Drug Test

If your employer subjects you to random drug tests, you face the risk of losing your nursing license. This includes if you are found to have used cannabis, regardless of Prop.64 legalizing marijuana use for recreational purposes. The Supreme Court of California has even held that a company can fire any employee who fails a drug test irrespective of providing proof for a physician’s approval for legal marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

Per the state’s law, employers have the legal right to order pre-employment drug testing and take the use of illegal drugs into account when making employment-related decisions. At times, a discontented patient or coworker may file a complaint against you, leading to drug tests being administered. Alternatively, if you come to work impaired and with drug traces in your system from recent recreational use, you’ll most definitely be subjected to drug testing. If you fail a drug test, you’ll be reported to the Board of Registered Nursing, which may take disciplinary action like terminating your professional license.

Drug Diversion

Drug diversion of controlled substances and misappropriating medications is a serious crime and violation of the state’s Nursing Practice Act. Failure to waste controlled substances and medications is a severe charge a nurse can face. A nurse could steal controlled substances for their own use, financial gain or supply them to other users.

A nurse may divert medications by stealing them from a dispensary, pharmacy, or narcotic cabinet or by faking documents like a medication dose that wouldn’t be given to the patient but instead diverted to the nurse. Diverting drugs could also include rifling through hazardous or medical waste (for example, used syringes or gloves) for drug residue or removing a pin patch directly from a patient’s body for own use.

Charting Mistakes

Committing charting mistakes can also lead to you losing your nursing license. Common charting errors nurses commit are: failing to completely or accurately record drug changes or reactions in a patient’s condition, history of drug administration, patient health statistics, or illegible medical record keeping.

Ethical Violations, Gross Negligence, Incompetence, Professional Misconduct, Unprofessional Conduct, Neglect of Duty

Your license can be revoked or suspended because of allegations of misconduct, unprofessional conduct, neglecting your duties, gross negligence. or incompetence in complaints filed against you by patients, fellow employees, or your employer. You can face charges irrespective of whether the act or acts you are being accused of were unintentional or intentional.

Other reasons that could make you lose your license are:

  • Fraudulent advertising

  • Acquiring a certificate by misrepresentation, mistake, or fraud

  • Furnishing false info.

  • Impersonating another nurse or permitting another nurse to utilize your license to practice

  • Failing to report patient abuse to the appropriate agency

  • Sexual relations, misconduct, or abuse with patients

  • Passing yourself off as an advanced nurse when you don’t meet the qualifications

  • Being involved in helping or procuring an illegal abortion

  • Violating or aiding another nurse in violating the Nursing Practice Act

  • Knowingly filing a fraudulent claim to receive payment

  • Subverting licensing exam

  • Failure to protect a patient from blood-borne diseases by failing to follow infection control guidelines

  • Duplicating your license so a person can mistake it for a valid license

  • Declining to do activities you are licensed to do or discrimination in doing those activities based on national origin, marital status, physical handicap, ancestry, religion, sex, color, or race.

Note that if an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) rules that you’re incapable of safe practice during the hearing, the BRN will recommend revocation of your license. As we have seen, you may lose your license for several different reasons— ranging from failure to report convictions to professional misconduct.

However, whereas the board recommends that your license be revoked in these cases, there’s still a chance to assert that the disciplinary action should be something less than losing your licenses, such as public reproval or probation. In given cases, you may also be able to assert that disciplinary action isn’t warranted; therefore, the board should withdraw the Accusation.

The board considers several factors when deciding whether to suspend or revoke your license or if it should place the license on probation. These factors are:

  • Severity and nature of the allegations in question

  • Potential or actual harm to the public

  • Possible or actual harm to the patients

  • Past disciplinary record

  • Mitigation evidence

  • The number/variety of current violations

  • Proof of rehabilitation

  • General criminal record

  • The time that has passed since the offense or act occurred

  • For criminal conditions, adherence to probation conditions

  • For criminal a conviction, expungement of criminal record

Every case is different, making it possible for a skilled professional license defense lawyer to build a compelling case for why you shouldn’t lose your license. Then, all you have to do is consult with an attorney right away so you can work together on developing a factual, legal defense against the allegations you are facing and assist in developing mitigating proof.

The Board of Registered Nursing Board Is Investigating You—What to Do

The Board of Registered Nursing may start investigating you after they receive a complaint against you from a patient/their loved one, the public, colleague, significant other, ex-friend, hospital, or any other entity or person. It could also start investigating you after discovering that you’re facing criminal charges via the DOJ or have been found guilty of a felony or misdemeanor.

You may know that you’re being investigated when investigators interview your colleagues or start to collect proof linked to the supposed violation. Also, you may receive a phone call, letter, or email from the investigator tasked either by the Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigations or the BRN.

If the investigator contacts you or otherwise find out that you’re being investigated, you should reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible. Sometimes, an issue would not go beyond the investigation phase, especially if your attorney is knowledgeable and experienced in matters licensing. Keep in mind that the investigation process is confidential. Therefore, if your issue is resolved at the investigation stage, the accusations against you won’t be published on the board’s website.

Once the investigation is over, the BRN determines whether or not you committed a violation. If it determines that you did, it’ll start disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary proceedings are initiated by the filing of an Accusation against you. You’ll be sent a copy of the Accusation via the address you’ve provided on BreEZe. Note that the Accusation will be sent to the provided address even if it’s nonfunctional or outdated. This means you might lose the chance to defend yourself: thus, ultimately losing your nursing license by default decision.

An Accusation refers to an official document stating why the Board of Registered Nursing is seeking authorization to impose disciplinary action against you. At the end of the Accusation, the board will recommend revocation of your license. Reading the Accusation could cause great anxiety, especially when you’re afraid that you’ll lose your career.

If the board sends you an Accusation, you want to be positive to be capable of defending your nursing license from being revoked. There are several steps a skilled professional license defense lawyer can take at this point, from bringing the Notice of Defense, building an affirmative defense strategy to preparing for a hearing and potential settlement that allows you to retain your license.

Find a Competent Healthcare professional License Defense Attorney Near Me

There are only a few experiences that can be scarier than discovering that you’re on the verge of losing your nursing license. When you’re in this situation, you need a person you can trust and who has extensive expertise in handling matters like yours. At the Legal Guardian, we offer compassionate and skillful legal representation for nurses at every stage of the BRN disciplinary process.

Our lawyers focus on helping nurses facing formal Accusations, investigations, and possible loss of their licenses in Long Beach, CA. We take an all-inclusive approach to nursing license defense, striving to build defense strategies that show our clients’ qualifications and competence. For a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation, call us any time at 888-293-0396.