It takes years of sacrifice and hard work to become a registered nurse. In California, the Board of Registered Nursing is in charge of regulating the nursing profession, and that means scrutinizing every RN application, looking for “causes for denial.” As professional licensing attorneys, we’ve talked to thousands of nurses and helped hundreds of applicants get licensed even with these issues and more. Here are the most common reasons prospective nurses get their applications denied:
- Committing a Crime
The Board of Registered Nursing is allowed to deny a license if the applicant has been convicted of a crime—that’s in the California Business and Professions Code, at section 480(a). The crime must be considered “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties” of a registered nurse. In practicality this means that a crime signifies to the Board that the applicant has demonstrated bad judgment, or struggles with impairment, while a nurse is required to have good judgment and be free of impairment. The most important factors for applicants with a criminal record to consider are “how long has it been since the crime?” “what have I done to rehabilitate?” and “were drugs or alcohol involved in the crime?” The Board takes a hard line on convictions involving alcohol and drugs, and for even a single conviction the Board can deny an RN license. An experienced licensing defense firm can help almost anybody demonstrate rehabilitation, so it is crucial to get an attorney involved if you have a criminal record.
- Lying on the Application
Business and Professions Code 480(d) allows the Board to deny a license if an applicant “knowingly makes a false statement of fact” on a license application. Applicants need to be particularly careful to accurately disclose their criminal record—because they are so worried about possibly being denied for a criminal conviction, some applicants take a hopeful view of expungments or dismissals, hoping that their crime is “no longer on their record.” A good rule of thumb is that in California, crimes are on your record forever. Even if they have been dismissed, the application makes very clear that they still need to be disclosed. There are some exceptions, such as juvenile matters. An experienced attorney can help determine whether or not adverse events from the criminal justice system have to be disclosed on the application.
- Out-of-state Discipline
Not all applicants to the California BRN are first-time nurses. Some very experienced nurses from all over America want to be licensed in California, and they face their own challenges with the Board. For example, what if a nurse was previously given license probation by the Texas Board of Nursing? Not only must that discipline be disclosed to California (see problem 2, above), but that discipline could also become grounds for an outright denial in California.
- Suspension/Revocation of a Different License
The Board’s power to deny licenses isn’t limited to just acts involving the practice of nursing. LVNs, Respiratory Care Technicians, and even CNAs who are looking to become RNs all have their own licenses and their own state agency to contend with before they apply to the California BRN. For example, if the Board of Vocational Nursing disciplines or suspends a licensee, that regulatory action can be a separate ground for the Board of Registered Nursing to use to deny a license to an applicant.
- Irregular Behavior During the NCLEX
The California Board of Registered Nursing takes honesty seriously, and is allowed to deny a license for an act “involving dishonesty” no matter whether or not it was criminal in nature. This provision is used against nurses who have some kind of irregularity during the NCLEX process, even if the alleged “irregularity” is innocent, like a violation of examination rules. Not only will the RN Board likely consider the event to be dishonest, but the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) will often use the irregularity to prevent a nursing student from taking the examination again. Since one of the requirements to be a nurse is to pass the examination, a nurse can find themselves with two strikes against their application for just one broken rule during the examination.
If you’re trying to become a Registered Nurse in California but you’ve got one of these problems, contact an experienced licensing defense attorney for help. The above reasons come entirely from our experience defending licensees and applicants before the Board, and we can use that experience to help you.