What are the Pros and Cons of the Diversion Program?

By: Jennifer Coalson-Perez, Executive Director RN Guardian, Mystery-Solver Extraordinaire

How does a California Registered Nurse make an informed decision regarding whether or not to enter the BRN’s Diversion program, if it doesn’t sound like it is even an option? If you’ve received this letter “offering” you participation in Diversion, you immediately know what I mean. The first thing it says is that the BRN has been notified that you may have misused alcohol or drugs and/or you have a mental issue that could be preventing you from practicing nursing safely. If you’ve been recently arrested for a DUI, you can probably narrow the origin of the complaint to the DUI arrest, but if it is something else, you may sit there wracking your brain in panic trying to figure it out.

The next part of the letter is the part that terrifies you: If you decide not to enter, the matter will be turned over to the Enforcement Division of the Board of Registered Nursing, which may result in your RN License being Revoked or Suspended. Does this sound like the BRN is giving you a choice? Is there any language in the letter that leads one to believe that Diversion is voluntary, or that there are other options? NO! That is the conundrum. It is a mystery, puzzle, challenge, or enigma. And how do most nurses solve this mystery? By doing PRECISELY what the BRN wants you to do, which is to call Diversion and enter the program.

The Diversion Letter is a piece of pure marketing genius. It is akin to the fear- inducing spam you receive in the mail where you get a document that looks like it comes from your mortgage company alluding to a missed payment, but when you open it, it is some sneaky marketing ploy to get you to re-fi at a “historically low rate.” Most people see through this type of trickery that plays on your fears and are irritated by it, but nurses are so blinded by the fear of revocation or suspension of their RN licenses, that they fail to read between the lines.

Let me Scooby Doo this for you and solve the Diversion Program mystery: Diversion is voluntary. There are other options available. There is a VERY slim chance your license will be revoked or suspended if you don’t enroll in Diversion, but there is a 100% chance that YOUR LICENSE WILL BECOME INACTIVE IF YOU DO JOIN DIVERSION!

What Happens If You Call Diversion?

What the letter does not tell you is that once you make the phone call to Diversion to find out more, they’ve got you. That is the marketing genius. You will admit that yes you had a DUI, and get you talking about depression and taking drugs. The intake person will get you questioning yourself: “Maybe I do have an alcohol problem…” “Yes, occasionally I do feel depressed…” “I do take my Ambien prescription to sleep, I might be addicted to it…” and you’ll enroll. What you will have just signed up for is the immediate deactivation of your RN License, a 3 year commitment to “recover” on their terms and a price tag of about $18,000.

The Diversion Program’s biggest draw is that of “Confidentiality” and “Anonymity” and that part is semi-true. Diversion is the only way you can 100% guarantee that the underlying issue will not result in a public Accusation against your RN license. Most nurses want to avoid the embarrassment of their employer finding out and think Diversion is the only way to keep it quiet. But let’s take a closer look at the truth.

  • Convictions Are Public Anyway.
    • If the Diversion offer is for a DUI arrest and that arrest results in a DUI conviction, then the conviction will be public record and must be disclosed to an employer anyway.
  • Your Employer Will Know You Are In Diversion Anyway.
    • Diversion won’t report your participation to your employer, but how do you explain to your employer that your license has been inactivated and you need to take 6 months off work, and when you return you can’t work with meds and have to be strictly supervised? I’m pretty sure they will figure it out or you will have to tell them. Diversion ISN’T a mystery to employers- but they will assume it is because you have a drug problem.

So if the biggest benefit from entering the Diversion program is to avoid the issue becoming public, and it is going to be public anyway, or to keep your employer from knowing, and your employer is going to know anyway, what is the real benefit of Diversion? Well, that creates another conundrum, doesn’t it?

What Happens if You Don’t Enter Diversion?

The Diversion alternative is to suck it up and deal with the potential consequences of the underlying complaint.

  1. If it is for a DUI arrest, and the case gets dropped, nothing will happen and the whole thing goes away.
  2. If it gets reduced to a wet and reckless because your DUI attorney knows what they are doing, you might get a citation and a fine of $250.00 and the whole thing goes away.
  3. If you are convicted of the DUI, the BRN will file an Accusation against your license and you will probably receive a letter of public reprimand or probation (which lasts as long as Diversion, by the way).
    • You will be out of pocket about $2,000-ish to the BRN and for your attorney’s fees. But, the worst case scenario comes nowhere near the $18,000 required by the Diversion Program.
    • You get to keep your license as it stays active the whole time. You get to keep working.
    • Yes, your employer will know, but that just means dealing with the embarrassment of admitting you aren’t perfect. Plus, you may have had to do that once or twice in your life already, anyway.
  4. If it is for a mental health issue, the BRN has to prove you have a problem that prevents you from practicing safely. If they can, see #3.
  5. If it is for a medication issue, the BRN has to prove you have a problem that prevents you from practicing safely. If they can, see #3.

Once you have all the facts and have solved the mystery of the Diversion Program, Mr. Withers isn’t so scary, is he? He is crabby and mean, but pretty harmless.

For more information on Diversion, Click here to go the the Diversion section of the blog. For Information about the BRN’s Discipline process click here and for info about RN’s with a DUI, click here.
Or- give me a call and I will be more than happy to listen to your personal story and let you know based on your specific facts, what you’re likely outcome will be if you choose not to enroll in the BRN’s Diversion Program. 1-800-506-9766.