Medical License Defense Attorney Lucy McAllister

If you are a nurse who has been accused of having an “alcohol or substance abuse problem” (which can be triggered by a DUI or other information) and are under investigation by the California Board of Registered Nursing, you may be offered to voluntarily participate in the BRN’s Intervention Program.

Registered nurses are referred to the Intervention Program by the BRN as a result of a complaint indicating the RN may be impaired due to substance use disorder or mental illness. You may be offered intervention (sometimes also referred to as “diversion”), for any level or seriousness of complaint to the BRN that you have a “substance abuse problem”, even a minor one.

Because a nurse who chooses not to enter the Intervention Program will have their complaints referred to the Enforcement Program for investigation and possible disciplinary action, it might seem like Intervention might serve to de-escalate investigation of your license and discipline by the BRN. However, it is critical that nurses understand that while a nurse is participating in the Intervention Program, she may not practice nursing at all – even on a part-time basis for a period of 12 to 18 months, without exception.

As the CA BRN’s website states, “The goal of the Intervention Program is to protect the public by early identification of impaired registered nurses and by providing these nurses access to appropriate intervention programs and treatment services. Public safety is protected by suspension of practice, when needed, and by careful monitoring of the nurse.”

In practice, most nurses do not see Intervention/Diversion as a reasonable financial choice based on the limitations which are placed on them as required under the program, especially forcing them to give up their livelihood (especially if they do not need ongoing treatment for substance abuse). To complete the Intervention Program, a nurse with a substance use disorder must also demonstrate a change in lifestyle that supports continuing recovery and have a minimum of 24 consecutive months of clean, random, body-fluid tests.

If a nurse wants to continue to work and has a reasonable explanation for their contact with alcohol or controlled substances, actively participating in an investigation with the BRN can offer a more reasonable outcome. For example, in the event a licensee with a DUI, as a result of the BRN investigation, is offered a period of probation, while on probation, the licensee will actually be REQUIRED to, rather than forbidden from, working.

If you have been offered participation in Intervention, you should immediately consult with an experienced licensing attorney to review your specific case. A qualified lawyer can advise you about the implications of moving forward with the BRN’s investigation vs the costs to your practice associated with taking yourself out of the workforce for 1-1.5 years and the impact to your nursing career.

For additional information or to schedule a consultation with our law offices, please contact us today at (877) 280-9944.