The California Board of Registered Nursing has made important changes to the duty of a nurse to report a criminal conviction or other license discipline and to cooperate with the Board’s investigation of that conviction.  We have begun to see Board staff implement this new law in 2016.

Under Title 16 California Code of Regulations section 1441, if a nurse fails to report a felony or misdemeanor conviction within 30 days of the date of conviction, it is considered unprofessional conduct.  Discipline taken by another agency, such as a nursing board of another state, must also be reported.  As of the writing of this article, the Board of Registered Nursing has no reporting form for this purpose, nor has it given specific guidance on how or to whom to report these adverse events.  The only specific reporting form currently available from the Board is its “License Discipline / Conviction Certification.”  This form only applies to a license application that is being held due to failure to report a conviction on a renewal application form.  Also, the exact information required to notify the Board is not yet specified.  Specific information about the date and place of the conviction, and law violated, sent in a manner that provides evidence of timely reporting. would appear to be enough to meet this requirement.

The Board has also amended section 1441 to require that a licensee who is asked for “documents” within 15 days of receipt of a request (or a longer time if specified) must supply those “documents” or be found to have committed unprofessional conduct.  From the context of the statute, it would appear that these “documents” would be court conviction documents and police reports, however, “documents” theoretically could include confidential employment, medical and psychiatric records.   There is an exception that excludes documents that the licensee does not have access to or control over.

Finally, section 1441 also provides that “failure to cooperate and participate in” a board investigation constitutes unprofessional conduct.  It is common that a Board of Registered Nursing investigator or an investigator from the Department of Consumer Affairs will contact licensees about a pending complaint or, rarely, a criminal conviction (unless the conduct occurred at the nursing workplace).  The only exception provided is if a licensee asserts their Fifth Amendment or other constitutional or statutory privileges.  In our opinion, the involvement of an attorney is essential to identify constitutional and statutory privileges and to assert those to the Board in a timely and effective manner.

The Board of Registered Nursing continues to tighten its regulatory noose around the necks of is RN, NP and CRNA licensees with these very strict investigatory tools.  If you have received a letter from the Board of Registered Nursing or the Department of Consumer Affairs demanding an interview, documents, or both, do not hesitate to contact our office for a consultation.