Being Investigated As A Nurse For Alleged Misconduct? Know The Process.
Nurses have a passion for helping people, for making a real difference. Yet, while nurses are integral to good health care, nursing is a demanding, high stress career; patients are not at their best when they need nursing care, and complaints can be made even when the basis for them is questionable.
When facing allegations of misconduct and investigation by the California Board of Registered Nursing, you need a strong legal defense, and also a basic overview of what to expect.
How An Investigation Is Kicked Off
An investigation by the Board of Registered Nursing may be initiated when you renew your license and a criminal conviction shows up in your background report, or when the Department of Justice reports a legal issue to the Board. Legal issues that can give rise to a Board of Registered Nursing investigation do not necessarily have to be directly connected to your work as a nurse – for instance, a drunk driving conviction, or any criminal conviction, could spur an investigation.
Most investigations are triggered by a complaint. Complaints to the Board of Registered Nursing can be filed by anyone, and may include allegations such as unprofessional behavior, license fraud, gross negligence or incompetence, substance abuse, mental illness, and misrepresentation. Complaints to the Board can be made anonymously. In some cases, the nurses’ employer is required as a matter of state law to report misconduct of the nurse to the Board of Registered Nursing.
Process Begins With Notification, Ends With Dismissal Of Complaint Or Disciplinary Action
Within ten days of receiving a complaint, or if something was flagged in your license renewal application, the Board will send you a written notice. Next, the Board will begin and investigation to gather information.
The investigation may be conducted through the Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation or by Board consultants, who are typically Department of Justice investigators hired by the Board. If the investigation reveals that allegations are unfounded, the complaint will be closed. If, however, the allegations are substantiated, the Board will move forward with disciplinary action.
A nurse who is being investigated should expect to be contacted by an investigator. The investigator will request that you sign authorizations to allow them to access your employment records, and in some cases, personal records. The investigator will also want to interview you in person. At the conclusion of the investigation, the matter is submitted to the Board of Registered Nursing to determine if disciplinary actions should be taken against the nurse.
Disciplinary actions taken by the Board may include formal or informal proceedings. Citations and fines are examples of discipline that may be meted out by the Board. Actions for alleged unlicensed activity or criminal offenses may be referred to the district attorney for prosecution.
What To Do If Your California Nursing License Is In Jeopardy
If you have received notice of a threat to your nursing license, the most important step is to get legal help. A nursing license defense lawyer can advise you on the best legal course of action and can help you fight allegations that put your career in jeopardy.
While your attorney will provide a full range of advice on the situation, if you have not yet retained an attorney, there are a few things you should be aware of. In your notification letter, the Board may ask you for a written response. You should not provide one, at least not before speaking to a nursing license defense attorney. Anything you write in your response could be used against you in the investigation or later legal action.
Likewise, you should not speak to the investigator assigned to you case without legal counsel present. The investigator may appear to be “on your side,” only wanting to get your side of the story, but make no mistake: the investigator’s sole job is to ferret out evidence against you. Whatever you say can and will be used against you.
What you must understand is that often times, the misconduct for which you are being investigated for may have potential criminal or civil consequences. Therefore, you need to fully understand your rights before proceeding and cooperating with an ongoing investigation with the board.
If you are facing an investigation by the California Board of Registered Nursing, do not let it mar your nursing career. Protect yourself by seeking the counsel of a nursing license defense lawyer today.