Among the thousands of applicants who seek to become a registered nurse in the state of California each year, hundreds have criminal convictions or other adverse actions (such as other license discipline) of some kind in their background. A license applicant with a criminal conviction or other adverse action typically has three obstacles to clear before receiving their California RN license, and navigating through this process successfully requires an experienced licensing attorney.
The first obstacle is whether to disclose a conviction or adverse event. The RN application requires, for example, that convictions be reported “even if they have been adjudicated, dismissed, or expunged, or even if a court ordered diversion program has been completed.” We see some new clients each year who have failed to list a conviction on the registered nurse license application, when in fact disclosure was required. The Board will sometimes deny a license simply because an applicant failed to list a conviction, even if the Board of Registered Nursing, or BRN, would not have denied the license on the basis of the actual conviction itself.
The second obstacle is disclosing the conviction to the Board in a manner most likely to avoid a license denial or improve one’s chances in an administrative proceeding by presenting helpful facts and an appropriate demeanor. The Board of Registered Nursing requires a statement from the applicant describing the facts and circumstances of the conviction together with other supporting documents. This is where a professional licensing attorney’s assistance is invaluable. Applicants often make grave mistakes in their statement to the Board, providing either too much information (perhaps giving the Board additional cause for concern), too little information (giving the Board the impression that the applicant is dishonest or lacks remorse), or unhelpful information (overlooking mitigating facts or exhibiting a concerning attitude). The presentation of the information is especially important – often, applicants are concerned with “making a good impression” to the Board of Registered Nursing, and will therefore minimize certain aspects of the conviction to attempt to portray themselves in a better light. Clients of ours are often shocked to hear their own words, written by them in a vain attempt to try to make a good impression, used against them in an administrative hearing to support license denial.
Finally, the third obstacle to navigate is responding to a letter of license denial that some license applicants with criminal convictions will receive. A letter of denial is not the end of the process; for most applicants, it represents just the beginning. A license denial can be appealed to an administrative hearing court, where an experienced attorney can help you make your case for licensure directly to an administrative law judge. Just like when licensed nurses are accused of misconduct, license applicants must persuade the California Board of Registered Nursing that the public will not be endangered by granting them a license. This involves the presentation of strong mitigation and rehabilitation evidence and a well planned and thoughtful presentation addressing the Board’s concerns.
Defense counsel for a license applicant must be able to discuss and apply the Board of Registered Nursing’s published disciplinary guidelines to an individual case. Convictions that look similar or identical on paper can involve different case presentations depending on the individual circumstances of each event. These convictions must be carefully explained to the Board at the application stage, as well as carefully presented with appropriate advocacy during an administrative hearing.
The considerations are the similar, and our representation is equally effective, if you are applying for an LVN, psychiatric technician, respiratory therapist or physician’s license, or any other California occupational license. If you are applying to become a Registered Nurse in California, and have a conviction or adverse event to possibly disclose, or are in the midst of a license denial case, please contact us for a consultation at (949) 557-4888.