Two RNs have recently contacted me when it is too late to help them and they have either had, or are going to have, their RN license revoked because they employed the worst legal defense strategy ever. I get it… BRN action is scary, so the ostrich defense of burying your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away often seems like the best strategy… but I promise you, while the ostrich defense never works, the early bird strategy always does, and those nurses gets to keep their RN license.
RN License issues do not sneakily creep up on nurses out of the blue. You will have multiple indications that the BRN is going to get involved with you and your RN license, here are a few: you get a DUI, you get arrested for anything, you get questioned by your employer for missing meds, charting errors, patient complaints, or co-worker complaints. You get fired for any of those things. You divert medication. You go to work impaired. You test positive for a drug test. Any of the aforementioned issues mean that the BRN is going to come knocking at your door (usually figuratively). It may take 6 months. It may take a year, but they will come. If you’ve had your head firmly planted 6 inches under, you may not realize it when they do.
Initial BRN contact will come 1 of 3 ways: 1.) a letter offering you the diversion program (you can actually employ the ostrich defense here but read up on it before you do) 2.) contact from a BRN investigator or 3.) an Accusation against your RN license. It is EXCEEDINGLY RARE that you will just get the accusation without either a diversion offer or investigation first, but it can happen. If you call us at the earliest opportunity or indication that the BRN is taking action, I promise we can save your RN license from being revoked because… well…. We always do.
You can ignore Diversion, it is voluntary, so you don’t have to go and you don’t have to respond telling them you are declining. You CANNOT ignore the investigation without incurring an unprofessional conduct charge from the BRN. You cannot ignore the Accusation…. not even for a brief time, because if you fail to respond in 15 days, you will have your RN license revoked on a default order.
2 Examples of the Failed Ostrich Defense
Jerry had an accusation filed against him for 4 separate counts of medication charting errors over a 2 day period, because he charted that the medication was given before it was pulled and given. This is a totally defendable accusation, and relatively minor. He would have likely ended up with a letter of public reprimand had he contacted us when the accusation was filed. Had he contacted us to defend him at the investigation stage, this issue may not have even resulted in an accusation at all. But Jerry didn’t contact us. He didn’t have the correct address on file with the BRN, so there was a delay in forwarding his mail. When he finally did receive the Accusation, he didn’t file the notice of defense on time, so they moved for default revocation. When he finally received the Order of Revocation in the mail, he didn’t call us within 7 days so that we could appeal the order and reopen the case. He must now wait 4 years to get his license back. He told me that he thought the underlying was issue was so minor that the BRN wouldn’t possibly revoke his license for it, and he was right. The BRN didn’t revoke his license for the accusation, they revoked his license because he ignored it.
The 2nd nurse sent me this email. Notice the time and date when it was sent.
Sent: Thursday, 3:25 AM To: Subject: New submission from How can we help you?
C’MON!!!! Most legal offices aren’t open at o’dark-thirty and I’m not checking my phone at 3:25 am and even if we were, this nurse was about 2 months too late. She had likely had the Accusation for at least 6 months and would have agreed to the hearing date. We can’t exactly just show up at your hearing the morning of, in our bunny slippers and curlers and argue a case we’ve never seen before. What we can do is probably settle your case without even having to go to a hearing or prevent an Accusation from being filed in the first place. If we had sufficient time with the client we absolutely would have been able to help her keep her RN license because, well… We always do.
These are real potential clients with real stories of how they lost their RN licenses. It doesn’t take an attorney or even an experienced legal person to see that one defense strategy never works if you don’t want to lose your RN license, but it is absolutely worth getting an attorney involved at the earliest possible stage if you want to keep it.