There are two types of BRN Hearings: 1 is similar to a typical courtroom proceeding, the other is more like being a contestant on Chopped. The type of BRN Hearing you will have to attend will depend upon what the BRN is disciplining you for or what you are requesting.
When the BRN Hearing is Like Law and Order
If you have been served with an Accusation against your RN license, you will have the option of requesting a BRN Hearing in the Notice of Defense. This notice MUST BE RETURNED WITHIN 15 DAYS in order for you to preserve the right for you to argue the Accusation at all. If you do not return the Notice of Defense, the BRN will follow the recommended discipline in the Prayer section, meaning your RN license will be revoked on a default order. It is absolutely critical for you to return the Notice of Defense requesting the BRN Hearing and to do it on time.
Once you’ve requested the BRN Hearing, you actually have 2 options. 1.) Your attorney negotiates what is called a Stipulated Settlement and if the BRN approves and adopts it, you can avoid going to the BRN Hearing altogether. This is what we recommend in the majority of cases, because more often than not, the result will be the same as it would be if you actually went to Hearing and it costs you less in legal retainers 2.) You go to the BRN Hearing.
The BRN Hearing itself is kind of like the courtroom you see on TV with a few notable exceptions. It is not “Court,” being the biggest difference. When dealing with the BRN, you are dealing with administrative law, so the Hearing will have an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), rather than a typical Judge. This Judge does not wear robes. The Hearing will be held at an Office of Administrative Hearings, not at a court house, and the room will look more like a College classroom than a TV courtroom. There are no jury boxes and no jury. There are no stands or wood paneled boxes, just a few tables. There is no swinging gate and no Bailiff. There is the Administrative Law Judge, you and your attorney, the BRN’s attorney and maybe a witness or expert. There may be few nursing or law students observing, and that’s it.
The biggest similarity is in the presentation of evidence and each attorney’s job to make the case for their client and then for the Administrative Law Judge to make a decision based on the facts. While the setting may look like your high school debate class, the law is just as serious as a criminal courtroom. Your RN license is on the line. Your entire career is at stake. A BRN Hearing is not the time to go in there thinking you can wave around a few letters of recommendation and have your mom testify that you’re a good person, while wearing your best suit.
The BRN’s attorney does this all day every day. It is their JOB and their SOLE PURPOSE to persuade the Administrative Law Judge to revoke your RN license for violating the Nurse Practice Act. They will have witnesses and experts and charts and files. They will have testimony from your colleagues. They will drag every skeleton you’ve crammed into the back of a closet out and parade them around like a scene out of a horror movie. If you did not properly submit Discovery within the right time frame, you may be prevented from even presenting your Letters or Mom to help your case.
In short, do not take these BRN hearings lightly. The BRN, the Deputy Attorney General of California and the Administrative Law Judge all take them very seriously, and so should you. Please have an attorney who knows what they are doing there to represent you. You wouldn’t represent yourself in a Criminal trial where your freedom was on the line, don’t represent yourself when your career is on the line either.
Once the BRN Hearing is over, the Administrative Law Judge will take all presented evidence under consideration and will render a recommended decision to the BRN in a few weeks. The BRN then has the right to adopt the Administrative Law Judge ‘s decision or reject it and impose whatever discipline they deem fit. You will not know the result of the Hearing when you leave at the end of it.
When the BRN Hearing is Like an Episode of Chopped
The other type of BRN Hearing is one before the actual Board of Registered Nursing itself. These are required for nurses who are petitioning for a reinstatement of a revoked license or reduction or early termination of probation terms. These Hearings are nothing like a courtroom, but rather are in front of a panel of the members of the BRN and perhaps hundreds of other nurses or observers at the meeting; like Chopped, but with a huge studio audience and panel judges who already think you’re a bad cook.
You will have less than 15 minutes to present your case. The burden of proof is on you to show why you are no longer a public threat as a nurse and why your license should be reinstated or your probation lessened. You must present facts. You cannot simply say sorry, I’m reformed and I’ll never do it again, while wearing your best suit. The BRN will sniff the food, turn up their noses and chop you. And unless you’ve actually been a contestant on Chopped, are a glutton for public speaking in huge crowds or won All State in college debate, you will be hard pressed to stay calm and focused enough to be persuasive under that kind of pressure. In my opinion, the Hearings before the panel are far more stressful than the one before the Administrative Law Judge and having the right representation even more important.
With the Administrative Law Judge, you have all day, with the BRN Hearing, you have 7-15 minutes. Your attorney will have been working with you for almost a year leading up to this Hearing. They will have advised you on everything you should be doing to present the best case. They will have complied the most compelling evidence and they will deliver it seamlessly in that short time before the Board. You will not have to say a word, you can just be there, looking great in your best suit.
How to Avoid the BRN Hearing Altogether
The easiest type of BRN hearing to avoid is the Chopped one, as these are only required if you’ve lost your license in the first place or are saddled with discipline you don’t want to comply with. If you have the right attorney defending you in the first place, you should not lose your RN license. If you have right attorney defending you, you will be given probation terms or discipline that you can live with for a few years.
The best way to avoid the BRN Hearing before the Administrative Law Judge, is to retain an attorney to negotiate a stipulated settlement for you. This is our attorneys preferred method because we get to present the same evidence, we deal directly with the BRN’s attorney and we can come to agreement in almost every single case that does not require suspension or revocation of the RN license. Once we convince the BRN’s lawyer to agree with us, they present this to the BRN and the BRN almost always adopts the settlement offer. This way, you avoid the expense, stress and uncertainty of the BRN Hearing and the results are virtually guaranteed.
You’ve likely seen a theme throughout this post: your best result hinges on the best attorney. I know, I know, this seems not so subtly self-serving, but it is absolutely true. An attorney whose specialty is Administrative Law with a laser focus on RN representation before the BRN is hard to come by, but absolutely essential if you want to keep your RN license and get the least amount of discipline. Defending California Registered Nurses is all we do. That is it. We’ve been to hundreds of Hearings, before ALJs and the Panel of the BRN and we have a 99% success rate in keeping our client’s licenses or getting our clients their RN licenses reinstated. Let us wear the suit, so you will get to keep wearing your best scrubs 🙂