Sorry California Nurse Practitioners: Be Careful If You Have Feelings
Every so often I take a phone call from a nurse that gets me so fired up I start making phone calls looking for a group to help me go up against the BRN on a broader level than just “legal license defense” for an individual. This morning I received and began making such a phone call. An NP recently had an accusation filed against her NP license by the BRN because she had been found too mentally unstable to be able to practice nursing safely.
I spent 45 minutes on the phone with this nurse who spoke lucidly, articulated her story beautifully, stayed on point, followed a linear timeline and sounded more mentally stable than 90% of the people I know. As she told me the story my jaw dropped further open until at the end, I had to basically scoop it up off the ground and reset it into my face.
One nurse’s story may be in danger of becoming all too common.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened: Marie (name changed for privacy) had been a nurse for 10 years before she went to work for a registry position for a Kaiser hospital in the Bay Area. She was frustrated, as many registry nurses are, by the disparity in workload and the demands placed on the temporary nurses. She had found her charge nurse sleeping a number of times after having been told that she couldn’t get any help on the busy floor and eventually she complained to a supervisor. Marie was moved to a different floor but when she was hired full time, she was sent back to the sleepy charge nurse. The charge nurse had it out for her and began critiquing her work and writing her up so Marie went to her union and filed a grievance.
This angered Sleepy even more and she kept writing Marie up, eventually for 3 patient care issues, flat out fabricating stories of neglect and abuse. After having put up with this for 2 years, Marie was “encouraged” to resign by her union. The years of fighting for her job and working under a supervisor who was gunning for her left Marie feeling what ANYONE would feel in that situation: anxious, depressed and stressed out. Someone – I can’t imagine WHO– knew that Marie had been in counseling sessions, even prior to going to work for Kaiser, and reported to the BRN that Marie was mentally unstable.
Naturally, the BRN glommed on to the patient care issues and launched an investigation but when it was finally discovered that Sleepy had in fact lied and had been terminated for it, the Board shifted to the mental health complaint. Marie was a sitting duck. She had been to counseling before. In fact, she had been on medication before to treat both anxiety and depression. The BRN issued an Order to Compel a Psychological Evaluation and sent Marie to a psychiatrist (which Marie had to pay for) on its own preferred list. You can probably see where this is heading…
Shockingly, the BRN’s own doctor found that Marie was suffering from depression and might need to go back on some medication to help her cope with the stress induced by the termination. His report was sent back to the BRN and they filed a formal Accusation against Marie’s nursing license with the finding that not only was she depressed but suffering from sociopathic tendencies (apparently this was decided after Marie disagreed with the fact that she was not too mentally unstable to be a nurse and “faked” her sanity in such a way that she could only be deemed a sociopath.) Like all Accusations, this one calls for the revocation of Marie’s nursing license.
The Deputy Attorney General assigned to her case asked Marie to surrender her license or seek a second opinion. So now Marie, at her own expense AGAIN (after not having worked following her “resignation”) must go seek a second opinion and get another psych exam. These are not little sessions with a MFT… these are full blown MMPI’s and they cost thousands.
This is what infuriates me: while all of this goes on, there is an accusation posted on the BRN’s website, attached to Marie’s name and NP license number that discloses Marie’s assumed mental health status of being one of the nurses dealing with depression. How is that not a HIPPA violation? How is Marie supposed to find a job after she’s been labeled a sociopath unfit to practice nursing? How is this ordeal, all by itself, not enough to really drive someone batty? And how in the world is poor Marie supposed to get out of this mess?
I’ll tell you. She can go get her 2nd MMPI, (which I’m sure will come back favorably) and then go to a hearing to present her case to an Administrative Law Judge. She should not do this without a lawyer or expert witnesses to testify on her behalf but she has no money to pay for a lawyer or expert because of all the prior psych evals she’s had to pony up for. The judge may find that Marie is fine and safe to practice, but the judge does not have the final say. The judge’s decision is advisory to the BRN and the BRN can overturn it. It is in the BRN’s interest to find cause for discipline or they don’t get paid back for the cost of the investigation. How is that fair? How is that unbiased? How does that even remotely resemble due process? How is THAT not crazy? I would call it insane. Furthermore, how are nurses dealing with depression or anxiety ever going to continue their careers with this stigma and process?
Invigorated with a sense of righteous indignation on Marie’s behalf, I started making phone calls to organizations that purport to be advocates for nurses like CNA and those nurses dealing with depression. Now I’ve called CNA a number of times trying to find out how they help their members when they run into trouble with the BRN and the answer is simple, they don’t. Today’s response was much the same. CNA cares about their member’s dues, but they sure as heck don’t care about their member’s licenses. So I looked into the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care-they sounded promising, but they list the BRN as one of their “Organizational Partners.” I called to ask what the nature of the partnership was and the women who answered the phone told me that the Executive Director formally sat on the Board of Nursing and was friends with the present BRN Director. Great. The Emergency Nurses Association of California doesn’t care about nurses dealing with depression or anxiety. The Occupational Health Nurses of California don’t care about nurses dealing with depression. I know who does care: Marie and anyone else unfortunate enough to be in her position. The ones being affected by the BRN’s witch hunt for nurses dealing with depression or any other mental care!
What can you do? Look out for your future, and keep the workplace professional.
All I can do is warn my potential clients and my RN Guardian members to be wary of mentioning any feelings of depression or anxiety around the water cooler. Keep your cool even if you are being harassed at work and your supervisor is telling lies about you. This is because you can be easily categorized as one of the nurses dealing with depression. And keep a passionate voice for nurses in your back pocket, with RN Guardian. Contact our team today if you feel you’ve been wrongly accused or targeted, and keep your license and livelihood.