Nurses from other states sometimes take travel assignments at facilities across California, especially since the demand for nurses has risen sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the California Board of Registered Nursing retains the ability to discipline the California BRN license for nurses even when they are disciplined for conduct outside of California against the nursing license in their home state.

One such travel nurse came to us after another state issued a reprimand against this nurse’s license for issues related to documentation of work performance while this nurse was attempting to obtain a Nurse Practitioner certification outside California. The nurse successfully achieved licensure as an NP in the home state, but was subject to a reprimand for the errors. Even though the nurse was not an NP in California, the BRN reviewed these documentation mistakes, reviewed the out of state discipline, and filed an Accusation against the client’s California license. They claimed the nurse must, according to the Model Disciplinary Guidelines, face a minimum discipline of three years’ probation in California and pay costs of more than $4,000 for the costs of prosecuting the matter against the nurse’s license.

We found the Board’s position to be totally unreasonable, and took the case to an administrative hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings in San Diego. At hearing, the administrative law judge ruled that the nurse deserved only the discipline commensurate to what was ordered in the client’s home state, and reprimanded the client in California. The costs of prosecution were reduced by 90% to only $500. Our representation not only saved this client from probation which would have required her to relocate to California to work full time, but also saved her almost $4,000 in costs that would have been due to the Board of Registered Nursing.

It is important to remember that the Board’s Disciplinary Guidelines description of the “minimum” and “maximum” discipline is advisory and does not carry the force of law. An experienced administrative health care attorney will know when a strong case can be made that the guidelines, as applied, would not serve the principles of public protection that the Board is required to follow.