Legal Issues in Disciplinary Actions Against Registered Nurses

The California Board of Registered Nursing is charged with investigating licensed nurses and taking disciplinary actions when appropriate. These kinds of actions are brought under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Board’s executive officer files the disciplinary action against, but the board itself is the ultimate decision maker in any such action. The board may only impose discipline against a licensed nurse only when the licensee’s misconduct or violation is substantially related to qualifications, functions, or duties of the nursing license. The criteria for determining whether such substantial relationship exists is outlined in the board’s regulations. The typical disciplinary actions involve penalties ranging from a citation to license suspension or revocation.

The most common charges leading to disciplinary actions against registered nurses are “incompetence” and “gross negligence” as well as “substance abuse” and “charting errors.”
disciplinary action against registered nurses in California
One of the very important elements of making the case for reducing the discipline imposed is showing either rehabilitation or other mitigating evidence. This is especially important in substance abuse cases, where showing active rehabilitation can be critical to maintaining a license or at least not having it revoked. Usually, simply attending AA meetings or similar meetings is not enough to show rehabilitation at a disciplinary hearing, and being involved in a more formal rehabilitation program is required in order to demonstrate to the board that the nurse is on the right track toward recovery from addiction.

It is critically important to carefully review and prepare for a disciplinary hearing so that you can present yourself, the facts that lead to the disciplinary action and any mitigating circumstances in the best light possible.

Like with most other legal disputes, early, pre-hearing settlement is usually an option. An attorney can contact the board’s counsel to discuss whether a possible deal can be made. Given the risks involved in losing at a hearing, it is well worth engaging in meaningful negotiations before leaving your case at the mercy of the administrative law judge.