I am frequently asked why nursing boards are so harsh. The Boards are composed of nurses and shouldn’t the Board understand the situations in which nurses get involved?
California has had issues with their Board. California has a separate Board of Nursing for Registered Nurses and one for License Vocational Nurses. The RN Board is called the Board of Registered Nursing (“B.R.N.”). In some parts of the country, licensed vocational nurses are called licensed practical nurses, L.P.N.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica analyzed the records of 2,400 California nurses who faced disciplinary action by the Board between 2002 and September 2009. What they found was that many of these nurses were allowed to continue in their practice while they still had serious allegations against their licenses. The investigation process took so long. They were left free to practice for years while the investigations continued. Many of these nurses simply moved to another state where they continued to practice
The then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, replaced most of the B.R.N. due to the extreme length of time it was taking the Board to discipline egregious conduct. It is my opinion that the other Boards learned of this and did not wish to become the subject of criticism and publicity like in California.
However, despite the previous California problems, it appears that the California Board of Registered Nursing is still having issues due to delays in resolving complaints against nurses accused of negligence involving patient injury or death or posed a serious risk of harm to others.
At the closing of 2016, an auditor’s report showed that there still was a delay in resolving these complaints. The audit reviewed 40 cases between June 1, 2013, and June 30, 2016, and found that the Board failed to resolve 31 of those complaints.
There was one complaint against a nurse for a toddler’s death in which there was a delay in referring it to the Consumer Affairs investigators. This complaint took more than 3 years (39 months) to resolve during which time the nurse was allowed to continue to practice!
One of the concerns with the California Board was that its state’s Medical Board has 1 staff member for 900 licensees while the Nursing Board has 1 staff member for 3,000 licensees. I know that funding is a big issue for these Boards. But, when you look at the Medical Board compared to the Nursing Board, the former has more staff and takes much less action against their licensees than does the latter.
I think Nursing Boards are a representative of nurses. In my addresses, I often provide case studies and ask my audience what they would do if they were a member of the Board in those matters. Some interesting responses included taking actions that would be more serious than that which the Board actually took.
Unlike the Nursing Board, the Medical Board protects its licensees. It may not be appropriate for Boards to protect doctors who are not safe to practice but, at the same time, excessive action against nurses is also is inappropriate. When a nurse is accused of the same conduct as a physician and if nothing is done against the physician’s license while sanctioning the nurse for the same conduct, that is not proper.
I am hoping that the Board can find a middle ground when protecting the public as well as rehabilitating the nurse. While I am an advocate for nurses, if a nurse should not be practicing then there is nothing that can be done to help them.
Do you believe Nursing Boards are excessively harsh? If so, what would be your suggestion(s) to resolve this? Let me know your thoughts below.