Our licensing clients, most often traveling Registered Nurses or Department of Insurance agents who work for multistate companies, sometimes have licenses in more than one state. They also could be on their way to California to continue their career in our great state. Either way, licensees who hold licenses in different states have specific, unique problems that need to be addressed by a qualified Nurse Attorney or a Department of Insurance attorney.
When we ask clients about their licensing history, they’ll often tell us something like “Oh, I used to hold a license in Arizona, but I gave it up years ago,” or an advanced practitioner might say “I’m a nurse practitioner now, but I used to be a registered nurse and before that I was a licensed vocational nurse.” What they don’t realize is that licenses, in most states, never go away. When you are granted a license by a state agency, that agency has jurisdiction over you forever, regardless of when you got it or whether you renew it. Keeping a license active allows you to keep using your license to practice, but an inactive or “lapsed” license doesn’t just disappear. You can’t use it to practice, but the agency that issued it to you can discipline you anytime you violate its laws for the rest of your life—no matter where that violation occurs!
Why does this matter? Because licensees in California who hold licenses in other states run the risk of “reciprocal discipline”. Most licensing agencies have laws that define “unprofessional conduct” as “discipline by another licensing agency in any state or territory.” So if California’s Department of Insurance disciplines a licensee, that licensee could be subject to discipline by California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences. Or, if Arizona’s State Board of Nursing puts a nurse on probation, that nurse could be disciplined by the California Board of Registered Nursing. Imagine a traveling nurse who holds licenses in Nevada, Washington, California, and Maine. If that nurse is disciplined in Maine, Nevada, Washington, and California could all seek discipline, even if the licensee hasn’t practiced in California for 15, 20, or 30 years! Additionally, most states consider it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensee to fail to report discipline from another agency, so the hypothetical nurse above would be responsible for informing four different state agencies in four different states about one disciplinary action.
The solution to the complex problem of reciprocal discipline is a qualified, experienced professional license defense attorney. Make sure you have somebody who understands the way licensing agencies think in each state where you hold a license, including California. Don’t let one potential issue turn into a major headache for your career.