With almost 400,000 registered nurses and hundreds of thousands of licensed vocational nurses, nurses are the largest group of licensed health care professionals we serve. At Ray & Bishop, PLC, we provide a variety of services to defend registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and elsewhere statewide. We also assist nursing school graduates making criminal record disclosures, answering “yes” to a criminal background question, on a nursing license application.
Common Nursing License Defense Situations
The majority of cases the Board of Registered Nursing and the Board of Licensed Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians file to discipline nurses are for criminal convictions such as drunk driving (DUI), either multiple offenses or involving a high blood alcohol leval, petty theft, drug crimes, and crimes of domestic violence, among others. In the case of a criminal matter, we are most helpful if we are involved when the criminal matter is pending, or at least before the nurse has to provide a written explanation to the Board. Our efforts to help explain criminal convictions at an early stage can often result in the case being closed or the imposition of a much minor penalty, such as a small fine. However, most registered nurses, or RNs, and licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs, come to us when they have received an Accusation.
An Accusation is the Board’s formal complaint against a nurse. A nurse has only 15 days from when an Accusation is sent out to return the Notice of Defense to the Board or its attorney, the Deputy Attorney General. After the Accusation is filed, cases can be resolved either by withdrawal of the Accusation, dismissal, a stipulated settlement, or decision after hearing. Our paramount concern is to save each and every nurse client’s license, and of course to obtain the best resolution possible. Sometimes, the best resolution only comes from a hearing before an administrative law judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings, since a judge can reduce discipline or even dismiss the case, subject to final Board approval (which usually occurs).
Besides criminal convictions, other cases mostly involve impairment (due to mental illness or addiction), negligence or incompetence. Impairment cases are rare, and usually triggered by police interactions where severe inebriation, drug abuse or mental illness are observed. Negligence and incompetence usually arise from employer complaints of incidents where a patient or patients have suffered harm due to medical errors. Finally, a serious and growing category of cases involve suspected diversion of drugs in a healthcare setting. We have extensive experience in defending all of these types of cases.
Nurse License Applications and Nursing Board Investigations
A nursing program graduate applying for a license must honestly disclose any criminal convictions on the nurse license application. The nurse licensing board typically asks for court and police records as well as an explanation from the applicant. The nurse license applicant can also include other evidence of mitigation (placing the incident in a benign context) and rehabilitation (showing self-improvement since the incident) through the statement. This information can make the difference of whether a license is granted or denied.
We also represent registered nurses and LVNs who are being investigated by the Boards. The Board of Registered Nursing has its own staff of field investigators who can conduct interviews and serve subpoenas to seek records and other things. Most investigations, however, are handled through the mail by staff analysts in Sacramento. Whether to make statements to the investigator, as well as the approach to take to the investigation, are matters best handled with an experienced attorney.
You Do Not Have to Face the Board Alone
Our law office provides compassionate, economical legal representation to licensed nurses and nurse applicants. In recent years the nursing boards have been criticized for being lax and inefficient, resulting in much more aggressive investigation, discipline and oversight of nurses, as they try to improve their public protection image. We are not fearful of these Boards, as they must abide by the law and give each licensee and applicant a fair process based upon the principles of due process and only as necessary to protect the public.