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California Nurses Under Investigation: What to Say When the Board of Registered Nursing Comes Calling
An investigation by the California Board of Registered Nursing usually starts with a telephone call or letter. The best course of action is to have an attorney promptly respond on your behalf. Sometimes, the investigator will start asking questions during the first phone call. Rather than answering questions, we recommend that you ask what the investigation is about and inform the investigator that you plan to cooperate with the investigation after retaining an attorney. Two weeks is a reasonable amount of time to respond through counsel.
You have a right to request a summary of the complaint against you and to see redacted complaint information in your Board of Registered Nursing file. You or your attorney should request this information from the Board in writing under Business and Professions Code section 800 (c).
Exercise control over the situation. Remember, you have a right to counsel and a right to know the nature of the complaint against you before you answer questions or provide a statement to the investigator. You also have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and it is unwise to answer questions that will subject you to criminal charges. In most cases, however, cooperation through counsel is helpful.
Most investigations are handled by the Division of Investigations of the Department of Consumer Affairs, but in 2010 the Board of Registered Nursing contracted with retired investigators to work "in-house." The investigator will often request a meeting to discuss a complaint and may request a urine sample for drug and alcohol screening. Unless you are on probation, you have a right to privacy and are under no obligation to provide a urine sample.
The investigators are professionals who are accustomed to working with counsel. Exercising your right to counsel does not make you look guilty; rather, it makes you appear to be an intelligent professional who cares about your license.