Did you know that there are close to 6000 accusations filed by the BRN against RNs each year, in California alone? Most of those are the result of a BRN investigation, but many investigations don't make it to the Accusation stage. This means that there are probably close to 10,000 nurses every year who get contacted by the BRN because the BRN has received a complaint alleging that the nurse may be a threat to public safety. Is this a staggering number to you? If there are 10,000 nurses dealing with the BRN every year, why doesn't anyone talk about it? How can almost 10% of a population being going through a career-altering and life-changing ordeal and no one knows?
As the owner of a company that is privileged to work with 10% of these 10% of nurses dealing with the BRN, I have a very unique perspective... and I have a theory.... It is the same reason that RN Guardian doesn't have a Yelp page.
I was explaining nursing to a data analyst the other day and I mentioned to him that I don't think there is a career that people are more proud of being a part. I said, "nurses proudly declare that they are nurses and shout it from the roof tops!" Nursing is more than a profession, it is a lifestyle, a passion and something that defines you. The "RN" after your name means something to you beyond what you do for a living, it is what you do for your LIFE, in short, it is woven into the very fabric of your whole person. This is why 99% of the nurse's I talk to are so proud of what they do, it is WHO THEY ARE! So, it makes sense, that when your competency or capabilities as a nurse are called into question, you are beyond devastated. It isn't just a job or a career on the line, it is your whole way of life.
As a nurse, being contacted by the BRN is an absolutely terrifying experience. I have spoken with literally thousands of nurses in this situation over the better part of the last decade and I can tell you that there are glaring similarities among every one of my clients. The nurse feels completely alone and isolated. In, fact, I am very often the first person they have even spoken to about it and they don't want to talk to anyone else. The nurse is mortified with embarrassment, they don't want their families, employers or friends to know. Because being a good nurse is so definitive for the person, having the "good" part called into question by the BRN is nothing short of crushing. Most of my clients break down on the phone with me and cry. This breaks my heart.
I think about what would happen to me if my integrity in my profession were called into question by a government entity. I think about how proud I am of what I do for people who need me, what a difference I make in people's lives and how devastated I would be if someone told me I had screwed up and was actually seen as a threat to the people I was trying to help. I would be devastated. I wouldn't want to share it with the rest of my colleagues in the legal field because I would be afraid of how they would judge me. It would be hard to tell my family and my husband because I would feel like I had failed them and I wouldn't want to tell my friends for fear they would think less of me. I would try to handle it on my own and maybe share once I had exonerated myself.
This is what nurses who have been contacted by the BRN do; they try to handle it on their own. I firmly believe that some RNs don't even seek out legal help because they can't bear the thought of sharing it with even one person. These are the nurses who just surrender their licensees and maybe tell their families that they are over nursing and have always wanted to pursue a career in real estate or accounting, while they are breaking inside.
Maybe you are reading this and thinking, "well, if the nurse is under investigation by the BRN, they must have done something wrong and they probably deserve it." So - let's run through a few scenarios and you be the judge.
Jason is going through a particularly nasty divorce. His wife is doing everything she can to get custody of their children. She has called the police on numerous occasions and feigned domestic abuse, all of which was immediately dismissed by the criminal courts without grounds. She has attempted to get restraining orders against him, which were never granted because they had no merit. Finally, she decided to go for jugular and filed a report of narcotic and alcohol abuse with the BRN. Jason, takes Ibuprofen every so often for knee pain and has an occasional beer with Sunday football. He is under investigation by the BRN because he didn't enroll in the Diversion or Intervention Program.
Leslie has been contacted by the BRN for allegations of diversion of medication. She was an ER nurse and handles a lot of the admissions and triage. She works a lot of overtime because she has 2 kids in college, so she has the time and needs the money. She was reported to the BRN after her employer did an internal audit and found that Leslie gave a lot more medication than other nurses. The BRN assumes she is stealing it and injecting it into her arm on her rare bathroom break.
Samantha works for a rehab facility with highly volatile detox patients. A new manager came on board and changed the internal policy regarding bed restraints, essentially eliminating them. A number of Samantha's patients had falls on her watch as a direct result of the new restraint policy. She was reported to the BRN for breach of patient care protocol only because she had reported her new manager's failing policy to the director and the new manager was angry and retaliated in the meanest way she could.
Jason, Leslie and Samantha are experienced nurses... 10 years or more. They had been with their employers for a long time. None of them had ever had so much as a previous write-up and all 3 have years of glowing performance evaluations. Do Jason, Leslie and Samantha seem like nurses who should have their competency questioned? No! they are Good Nurses and have always been good nurses and now they are under investigation and they don't want anyone to know. They want to continue to be thought of as "good", and they suspect that if they share it with you, you will judge them as "bad".
So, there are 3 nurses, out of 10,000 or so who are dealing with the BRN. They are not sharing it in the breakroom or at the nursing stations. They will never mention it on Facebook or post a review for the people who helped them on Yelp. The have battened down the hatches and are dealing with it in secret and you will never know. It is the biggest secret in nursing... it is the Great Taboo.