If your nursing license is being investigated by the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN), what should you expect? I am asked this question multiple times a day. The following is what one should expect from start to finish:
The investigation is triggered by:
A complaint about your work performance and the complainant can be, and usually is, anonymous.
It can also be triggered by a conviction that shows up on Live Scan when you go to renew your nursing license.
The third way an investigation will be triggered is via a report from the Department of Justice for a legal issue such as a DUI or misdemeanor conviction.
If you know that you’ve committed an error or violated the law in anyway, your best course of action is to speak with an attorney right away so that they can begin preparing you for what will follow. Outlined are the 3 stages of an investigation:
You will receive a 'Notice of Investigation' from the BRN.
In the notice, the BRN will explain that there has been a complaint alleging that you did something wrong, or you have committed some form of medical malpractice. They will further explain that it is their responsibility to investigate the accusation. They will cite a Business and Professions code number and ask you to submit a written statement to them by a given date, usually two weeks from the date of the letter, in response to the allegation.
You can also receive notice from the Board that something has come up during your renewal application, either because you self-reported during the renewal process or because your license was flagged through Live Scan. If this is the case, you will receive a similar notice from the BRN.
Do not respond in writing to either of these letters. Any statement you make will be used by the Board and Office of the Attorney General to continue their investigation. If you’ve received a Notice of Investigation letter from the BRN, call our office for legal help immediately. We will help you with your response to ensure that you do not unintentionally incriminate yourself.
If the Board is not sufficiently satisfied by the Letter of Explanation or Mitigating Evidence at this stage, the investigation will proceed.
The BRN will hire a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigator to look into the matter on their behalf.
The DOJ investigators are former or retired police officers, DEA agents or other experienced investigators. They have had years of experience in the art of interrogation and investigation. This investigator will call you to set up an interview “to get your side of the story.”
Do not speak to an investigator without representation. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from our clients that the investigator sounded like they were siding with the nurse.
Nurses often ask me if representation is really necessary “because the investigator told me it sounds like it will be dropped.” There is not one case in which they actually do drop the complaint. The investigator’s sole responsibility is to find cause for discipline for the Board. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Despite what it may seem, they are not on your side. Our Panel attorneys have done thousands of internal investigations and can successfully represent you so the process ends at the investigation stage.
If the process does not end at the investigation stage, you’ll receive the actual 'Accusation' from the Board.
Stage 3. The Attorney General serves you with a Formal Accusation against your nursing license.
It will become public record on the Board’s website and is an attempt by the Board and the Attorney General of your state to revoke, suspend or have you voluntarily surrender your RN License. This is the most critical stage of the process. I adamantly advise you seek representation if you don’t already have counsel.
There are three parts to the accusation:
Statement to respondent. This explains what you need to do and provides the time restraints for filing a Notice of Hearing or Notice of Defense. It also explains that you can opt for a stipulated settlement (Stipulated Settlements are offered in limited circumstances. See section 4 for more information.)
Accusation. This is the charge against you. It will provide a statement of the Boards’ jurisdiction, cite the codes you are being accused of violating, make a statement regarding cost recovery and finally, the prayer, which will call for revocation or suspension.
Notice of defense. You have 15 days from the date that you are given notice in which you need to respond with a Notice of Defense. This is also critical. Missing this step waives your right to a hearing and the Board will move to discipline you without your input. I cannot reiterate enough how critical this stage of the process is, if you want to keep your nursing career.
Without question, you need an attorney if you’ve been served an accusation, because the next step is filing a Notice of Defense and going to Hearing, which is difficult, if not impossible, to adequately handle on one’s own.
When your nursing license is being investigated by the BRN, it is best to understand the processes involve so you know what to expect along the way. Take it seriously as it will not just cost you your license but your entire nursing career.