How Does an RN Respond to a Gross Negligence Accusation from the BRN?
An Accusation from the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is an attempt to revoke a RN license and is usually the last step in an accusation of Gross Negligence. They do not just pop up out of nowhere and there will be many indicators before the Accusation from the BRN is eventually served on the registered nurse.
Know that the legal term “gross negligence” means a “substantial departure” from the Nurse Practice Act (NPA). The majority of gross negligence accusations stem from medication charting or wasting errors, but they can also stem from an issue with patient care or failure to follow proper protocol in the workplace. Sometimes they stem from a combination of all 3. Because these matters are almost exclusively the result of a workplace issue, the initial indication that you may eventually be served with a gross negligence accusation will be at the workplace itself.
For medication errors, charting problems, failure to document waste, or patient care issues, you will be questioned by your supervisor and likely placed on administrative leave while the employer investigates the gross negligence accusation. The best thing you can do at this stage is to have a union representative present to advise you on how to handle the internal investigation. Keep in mind that anything and everything you say at this stage will eventually be reported to the BRN. If ANY violation of hospital protocol or of the Nurse Practice Act is discovered, the employer will terminate you and report their findings to the BRN.
It is also a good idea to call us at this point so that we can advise you of some simple steps you can take to mitigate damages and to give yourself the best chance of success down the road.
The next indicator that an Accusation of Gross Negligence may eventually be coming down the pipes is an offer to participate in the BRN’s Diversion program or contact from a BRN investigator. Please review the blog posts on the Diversion program and the 2 part blog post regarding how to respond to a BRN investigator, but in short: DO NOT SPEAK TO THEM WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!!!!! The Diversion program will try to get you to enroll in their prison sentence of a program and the BRN or Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) investigator will usually contact you via mail and will vaguely specify that you are being investigated for violations of the Nurse Practice Act. They will provide a time frame in which you are to respond and the letter will include a release for you to sign. Again, please do not call, write, email, fax, or sign anything without calling us first. What you say during the interview will determine whether or not the investigator turns your case over to the Enforcement Division of the BRN.
If the Enforcement Division determines that there is a violation of the NPA, the case will be assigned to one of the BRN’s attorneys who file the Accusation against your RN license. The Accusation is a big deal. It’s a big document. It has big consequences. It will detail everything you did to violate the NPA. It will call for revocation of your RN license and it is public record, meaning EVERYONE can see it. It is attached to your RN license for anyone accessing BREEZE to see and it will show up in a Google search of your name. The Accusation will never go away unless the case against you is dismissed, which happens in less than 1% of cases.
This part sounds very self-serving, we know, but it is the simple truth. The best way to respond to an Accusation against your RN license is to have an experienced RN License Defense Attorney help you. The only person you have to respond to is the Deputy Attorney General who has filed the accusation. The last thing you want to do is call them and begin asking questions and disclosing information. They are the BRN’s attorney. They are your OPPOSING COUNCIL! Their job and purpose of their role is to discipline you and take away your license. It is imperative that you know this.
Your response will require you to choose between a Hearing and a Stipulated Settlement Agreement. You will have to respond within 15 days of receiving the Accusation, no exceptions. You will be asked to present deadlines to submit discovery. It will require mitigating evidence, in the form of letters of recommendation, performance evaluations, and other recommendations we would have given back when you were being investigated. Your response to the Accusation will determine whether your RN license is revoked, suspended, placed on probation, publically reprimanded or cited and fined. The last three options are your goal. Fortunately, the last three options are consistently our result in 98% of Gross Negligence Accusations served on our California RN clients.
If you have been served with an Accusation of Gross Negligence from the BRN, give us a call or fill out the contact form below. We will be happy to listen to the details of your case, review the gross negligence accusation and give you an honest opinion of the results you can expect. Should you choose to move forward with one of panel attorneys representing you, know that you have a team of attorneys who have represented hundreds of nurses in situations just like yours and those nurses are still licensed and practicing in California. We can help you, too.