Nurses, like many other medical professionals, are mandated reporters. That means they are required to report any cases of known or observed abuse as well as cases where they reasonably suspect abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.
This is a requirement under the laws included in the Nursing Practice Act. Failing to report can result in consequences including fines and even jail time, depending on the situation. If a nurse fails to report known or suspected abuse, it’s also considered “unprofessional conduct,” according to the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). That means it can put their license in jeopardy. At the very least, it can bring disciplinary action.
These cases of abuse and neglect often involve children. However, mandated reporters are also required to report abuse or neglect of elderly and dependent adults as well as those they know or suspect to be victims of spousal or other intimate partner (“domestic”) violence.
Knowing the reporting process is crucial
Under the law, nurses are to report known or suspected abuse or neglect to the appropriate law enforcement agency “immediately or as soon as practically possible.” This is to be followed up with a written report to the appropriate state and local agencies “within two working days of receiving the information regarding the person.”
All nurses should receive appropriate training on how to spot cases of abuse and neglect in patients they may be seeing for other reasons – or for injuries or medical conditions that they suspect were caused by abuse or neglect. They must also know how to report them so that they do so within the designated timeline and notify the appropriate parties.
It’s sometimes difficult to determine whether to err on the side of wrongly reporting something that turns out to be innocent and failing to report what is in fact abuse or neglect. Sometimes, guidance from supervisors is less than helpful or even wrong.
If you’re facing disciplinary action and other consequences for alleged violations of California’s mandated reporter laws, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance. Your career and possibly more could be at stake. You need to protect your rights and effectively present your case.