Several circumstances could cause the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) to investigate a registered nurse. Reports from the Department of Justice for legal matters like DUI or misdemeanor convictions could trigger an investigation. A sentence that shows up on Live Scan when you go to renew your nursing license could also lead to an investigation. The California Board of Nursing can also investigate you due to client complaints about your work performance. If you face accusations of committing an error or violating the law, consult an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney will assist you at every stage of the investigation.

     1. The Notice Of Investigation

The Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) will serve you with a Notice of Investigation. The BRN will explain the accusations against you in the notice. They will also inform you that they have to investigate the allegations. The Board will quote a Business and Professions statute and order you to send them a written statement within a given period. Usually, you should respond to the allegation two weeks from the date of the letter.

The BRN can also notify you that something has come up during your renewal application. There could be a problem during renewal because your license was flagged via Live Scan or you self-reported in the renewal process. If this happens, the BRN will serve you with a similar notice.

It is advisable not to respond to either of the letters in writing. You should avoid responding because the Board and Office of the Attorney General could use any statement you make against you. You should first consult an experienced attorney upon receiving a Notice of Investigation letter from the BRN. Your attorney will guide you in responding and ensure you do not incriminate yourself. The investigation will not continue if the mitigating evidence or letter of explanation satisfies the board.

     2. The Involvement of an Investigator From The Department of Justice (DOJ)

The BRN will seek the services of an investigator from the DOJ to look into the matter on their behalf. The investigators are usually DEA agents, retired or former law enforcement officers, or experienced investigators. These investigators have decades of experience in investigation and interrogation. The investigator will contact you to schedule an interview to hear your version of the story.

You should avoid speaking to an investigator without your attorney because the investigator is not on your side. The investigator works for the board and does not have your best interests at heart. Often, when you meet the investigator, he/she will tell you that they will drop the allegations if you cooperate with them. The investigators can also claim that legal representation is not necessary. The truth is that the investigators will not drop the complaint but will do everything possible to gather evidence. The sole responsibility of the investigator is to find a reason for the Board to discipline you. Therefore, any information you give the investigator could and will be used against you.

An experienced attorney can represent you to ensure the process ends at the investigation stage. You will receive an actual accusation from the board if the process does not end at the investigation stage.

     3. Responding To Formal Accusation Against Your License From The Attorney General

The Attorney General will serve you with a letter containing formal allegations against your nursing license. Anyone on the board’s website can access the letter. The Attorney General and Board often use this strategy to suspend or revoke your license. They also do so intentionally to have you surrender your RN license voluntarily. This is a critical stage of your investigation. You should seek the services of any attorney if you have not done so. You require an attorney to help you handle the following three things:

  • Statement to respondent
  • The accusation
  • Notice of Defense

Statement to Respondent

This statement gives the details of what you need to do. It also provides a period to file a notice of hearing or notice of defense. It also informs you that you can go for a stipulated settlement. A stipulated settlement is available in limited situations.

The Accusation

The accusation is the allegation leveled against you. It will cite the law you are guilty of violating and make a statement about cost recovery. It will also provide a statement of the jurisdiction of the board and the request that will call for suspension or revocation of your license.

Notice of Defense

You will have 15 days from the date you receive a notice to respond with a notice of defense. This step is essential, and if you miss it, you will no longer have a right to a hearing. Missing the hearing will give the BRN the right to discipline you without your input.

You need to take the accusation seriously to keep your nursing license. If the Attorney General serves you with an accusation, in that case, you should hire an attorney because the steps of filing a Notice of Defense and the hearing are challenging to handle alone.

     4. If You Opt For A Stipulated Settlement

Your attorney could negotiate with the court regarding the terms of your probation and settle your case without going for a hearing. This option is often not the best alternative, but you could take it. You will receive a stipulated settlement and disciplinary order if your attorney succeeds and comes to terms with probation.

Stipulated Settlement And Disciplinary Order

This is similar to the Statement to Respondent and Accusation but has a Disciplinary Order section at the end. You can only keep your license by abiding by this order.

     5. Setting The Hearing

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), Department of Justice, will ask you to schedule a hearing. Here, you have an opportunity to choose dates for your hearing. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) will then give you the location of the hearing. If you have an attorney, he/she must go to the OAH office and consult. Your attorney, the Deputy Attorney General, and the OAH will work with you to schedule the hearing.

The Hearing

An administrative law judge usually presides over an administrative hearing, and he/she is responsible for rendering a decision. The hearing typically happens at the OAH conference table but not in a courtroom. You, your attorney, the Deputy Attorney General, the opposing counsel, and the judge will be present. Each side will be able to argue their case and table the evidence. The judge will take all the provided information under submission at the end of the hearing. You will receive notice of the judge’s ruling within a few weeks.

     6. If The Outcome of a BRN Hearing Is Probation

Your attorney could help you secure license retention during the hearing. At times, however, the outcome of the judge’s order always imposes some probationary requirements. If you fail to comply with all probation requirements, you could receive a notice of your probation revocation.

Notice of Probation Violation

The BRN will serve you with this notice. The notice will inform you of the probation conditions you are being accused of violating. The following are the common accusations you can face:

  • Failing to participate in the practice of Registered Nursing for a minimum of 24 hours per week for six consecutive months
  • Failing to seek prior approval from the Board before starting employment as an RN

The Board will likely seek to revoke the probation and license following a Notice of Violation of Probation.

Petition To Revoke Probation

This petition is the official accusation from the board. The outcome could be another attempt to revoke your license or to give you the option to surrender your license formally. Submitting your Registered Nurse license is always the best option, rather than battling it out in a hearing or a settlement negotiation. It is also a cheaper option.

     7. In The Stipulated Surrender of License and Order

Sometimes, the board could request that you surrender your license and file a reinstatement petition after two years. Unfortunately, if you submit the license voluntarily, the burden of proof lies with you if you want to get it back. You will have a task to show that you are a good nurse who should have another chance to practice. In this case, the board must show that you are not a good nurse and do not deserve the opportunity to practice. It can be challenging and expensive for you to fight for your license if you fail to seek the services of an attorney.

Preparations For a Board of Nursing Investigation

It can be stressful if the BRN notifies you that you are under investigation. This could cause your license to be revoked or suspended, negatively affecting your profession. The following are some of the steps you should take to prepare for your license board investigation:

Take The BRN Investigations Seriously

A formal notification of the investigation is the first step in an investigation. This is usually a letter notifying you that you are being investigated and what you are being investigated for. Take the investigation seriously, even if you know that you have not done anything wrong and are sure there is no possible threat to your license. Usually, a thorough investigation can reveal hidden things you do not know about.

Hire An Attorney

Hire a skilled and experienced attorney when you receive notice about the investigation. The attorney will guide you in every step of the investigation. He/she will guide you on how to respond to the notice of investigation. Your attorney will also advise you on submitting any material or records to the board and how to defend yourself. An attorney will generally walk you through the whole investigation process and beyond the investigation so you can get back to your everyday life.

Cooperate With Your Attorney

No matter how skilled and experienced your licensed defense attorney is, you must work as a team to achieve the best results. Sometimes, your attorney will require extra resources to help create your defense. You could help your attorney make the best defense for your investigation by assisting them in locating experts, books, articles, or witnesses for your case.

Gather Sufficient Evidence

The BRN will gather information regarding your accusations or the subject of your investigation once the investigation begins. The BRN could order interviews, materials, records, and any other essential information that can assist them in getting a complete picture of what transpired.

You should gather and organize all essential records during this investigation phase. The records you gather will assist in improving the narrative of your defense. In most investigations, it is your records against the complaint. The more records you have showing that you are innocent, the better. 

Avoid throwing away or modifying any important documents when organizing your records. It is better to have documentation showing that you made an error, even if it does not paint your best picture. It would be detrimental to your profession if you attempted to destroy or hide documentation. Destroying or hiding essential information also covers up a minor mistake with an even bigger mistake.

Avoid Discussing Your Case With Other People But Your Attorney

Your situation could worsen if you discuss the investigation with your co-workers, employees, neighbors, friends, or family. You could try to vent, but you must understand that any information you give could be used against you. Uncensored and quick comments could make a big difference in your investigation. Choose your attorney if you have to talk to someone regarding your case. What you tell your attorney is confidential and cannot be held against you.

Prepare For The Long Run

Licensing investigations are not only stressful, but they can also take a longer period to resolve. Prepare for your investigation, knowing it could last a long time. There could be lengthy discussions about the outcome of the investigation even after all of the evidence is presented. At times, the BRN can decide to go back to gathering extra resources to make a better ruling. You only need to wait for a response once you have helped collect and provide information.

The Right To Learn The Substance of The Allegations Against You

Licensing boards are required to create and maintain a central file for each licensee under California’s Business and Professions Code. The files must contain details related to the following:

  • Reports about discipline from healthcare facilities
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Any complaint from the public
  • Any judgment or settlement that exceeds $3,000 related to professional malpractice
  • Any conviction for an offense that constitutes unprofessional conduct

The law enforcement and regulatory agencies could review these files. Details in these files, like records of formal disciplinary actions, should be accessible to the public.

Under the Business and Professions Code, you can inspect and make copies of the complete file. In other situations, details related to the identity of the source of information could be redacted.

Reviewing these files, especially the allegations made against you, can be crucial in creating a strategy to respond to a board investigation. Your attorney can evaluate the information in your central file and work with you to develop the best defense against the accusations contained in the file.

Board Investigations and Disciplinary Proceedings

BRN receives thousands of allegations each year about their nurses. BRN is responsible for investigating the allegations, using either their investigators or those from the DOJ. The purpose of the investigation is to ascertain if disciplinary action is warranted. However, not all board investigations result in disciplinary proceedings. If you are guilty of violating the law, this process could lead to several outcomes, including the following:

  • Closing the file
  • Solving minor violations with a fine and citation
  • Referring to the accusation of criminal prosecution
  • Referring the accusation to the office of the Attorney General for disciplinary action

Your attorney can help you achieve a fair judgment, like a file closure or a citation and fine, rather than a disciplinary or criminal action. It can be hard to avoid enforcement proceedings in situations involving serious accusations. In this case, your attorney could take steps to mitigate possible repercussions to cushion your license and livelihood. Your attorney will influence the outcome of the disciplinary action by doing the following:

  • Preparing mitigation packets for the Board
  • Researching case law
  • Consulting with experts
  • Carrying out a thorough investigation

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Nurses should not defend themselves before the California Board of Nursing, just as they should not represent themselves in a malpractice action. Nurses who have an experienced attorney represent them in licensure concerns have a much better likelihood of success. If you face misconduct allegations before the California Board of Nursing and your license is at risk, we invite you to contact The Legal Guardian. For years, we have helped nurses facing misconduct allegations defend their licenses. You do not have to defend your license alone. Our licensed defense attorney will walk with you every step of the way. Contact us at 866-448-6811 to speak to one of our Long Beach attorneys.