In July, 2009, the Los Angeles Times published a series of articles which were highly critical of licensing enforcement by the California Board of Registered Nursing. Within a day of the first article, Governor Schwarzenegger replaced a majority of the Board, and a day later its executive director of 16 years resigned. Within weeks, the Board sought to triple its enforcement staff. In 2009 the Board received budget approval for 11 new enforcement positions. In 2010, another 37 new enforcement positions were approved.

According to a Board publication, from fiscal years 06/07 to 09/10, the number of investigations commenced against registered nurses by the Board increased over ten-fold from 563 to 8,407. In the same period, the number of formal accusations filed against nurses by the attorney general’s office increased from 380 to 787. Sunset Review Report 2010.

The majority of investigations are commenced after the Board receives information that a licensee has been arrested or convicted for a crime. Investigations are also commenced after a complaint by members of the public, professional groups, insurance companies, and government organizations. Nurses are often unjustly accused of misconduct by patients and their families, colleagues, and other medical professionals.

Nursing is a rewarding profession that also can be extremely stressful. Experts have estimated that as many as 14-20% of practicing nurses suffer from chemical dependency. The Board offers a rigorous diversion program for chemically dependent or mentally ill nurses. Where a nurse voluntarily enrolls in the program prior to an accusation being filed, sometimes the disciplinary process can be avoided. However, nurses in the program may not practice until the program determines that they may safely do so. Nursing Board Diversion Program information

If you receive a letter from the Board stating that you are the subject of a complaint or investigation, a letter offering an opportunity to participate in the Board’s diversion program, a letter denying your license, or an accusation or statement of issues before the Board, you should immediately contact an attorney with experience representing nurses in professional licensing matters before you respond. First and foremost, it is important to avoid the filing of a public accusation before the Board which will appear on the Board’s website. The attorneys at Rothschild Wishek & Sands LLP have experience representing nurses before the Board in investigations and administrative hearings. We can assist you in preparing a defense as soon as you learn you are the subject of a complaint or accusation, which may avoid the anxiety and expense of a public hearing.

In many cases, our clients have engaged in no misconduct but instead are the target of an unjust complaint or an unfortunate misunderstanding. In other cases, our clients have engaged in uncharacteristic conduct resulting in a criminal conviction or have a substance abuse problem. In these cases we work with clients to establish mitigating circumstances that warrant no license discipline or probation instead of a revocation or lengthy suspension. Depending upon a client’s unique circumstances, we may:

  • Engage an investigator to work on their behalf to interview witnesses and prepare investigative reports as part of the defense
  • Engage experts to evaluate standard of care issues
  • Offer a referral for a confidential psychiatric or psychological evaluation which may confirm that a client’s character is inconsistent with the misconduct alleged, or we may recommend professional counseling and/or treatment as part of a plan of rehabilitation
  • Assist a client in locating professionals for substance abuse or mental health evaluations and treatment
  • Assist a client in assembling letters of support from colleagues and family familiar with their character and professional skill

In most cases where we are engaged during an investigation, we will submit a detailed analysis of the allegations to the investigator along with evidence that either supports our client’s position that no misconduct occurred, or supports a decision that license discipline is unwarranted.

The attorneys at Rothschild Wishek & Sands LLP can also assist nursing professionals with petitions for reinstatement where a client previously surrendered their license or had their license revoked.

For nurses facing allegations of professional misconduct before the California Board of Registered Nursing, contact Rothschild Wishek & Sands LLP for knowledgeable and effective representation.

Resource Links:

Board of Registered Nursing Enforcement Program
Disciplinary Guidelines
Laws Relating to the Profession of Nursing

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