Whether you have been a registered nurse for many years or are new to the career you have chosen, you may be reeling from a complaint someone filed against you.

The California Board of Registered Nursing will investigate the complaint, and, in the meantime, you worry because your nursing license may hang in the balance. Will you be out of a job?

A little background

There are over 4.5 million people in the U.S. who hold nursing licenses. Like those of physicians, attorneys, teachers and pilots, a professional license is an assurance that, as a registered nurse, you have the competencies and qualifications to perform your job well and keep the public safe from harm. There is a board of nursing in every state, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. California is among four states with two boards: one for registered nurses and one for LPN/VNs.

Handling complaints

Many people can file a complaint against you: a patient, a family member, your employer or a coworker. The complaint may be for perceived negligence in patient care, drug or alcohol abuse, diverting a controlled substance or either a misdemeanor or felony conviction. In dealing with the complaint, the California BRN will take the appropriate action under the Nursing Practice Act.

The disciplinary process

If accused of violating laws or rules, the board may take disciplinary action that could be as minor as a reprimand or probation. The board could also limit or suspend your work as a registered nurse and revoke your license. However, the process permits you to tell your side of the story, and you may have legal assistance in doing so. Depending on the severity of the allegation, the board could schedule either an informal meeting or a full administrative hearing. While you may worry about the future of your chosen career, keep in mind that even if the BRN revokes your nursing license, it will still allow you to petition for reinstatement.