Joseph P. Hougnon, Attorney at Law

Sacramento Nursing License Defense Attorney

Nursing License Defense AttorneyNursing is, without a doubt, a growth industry. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of nurses in the United States increased by 23.5%. That growth is expected to continue. The U.S. Department of Labor Management projects that employment of registered nurses will increase by 16% through 2024. California alone employed 421,917 registered nurses in 2016.

Despite this growth, the demand for nurses is expected to continue to outstrip the supply.  The reason for this is that the population of the United States is aging. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of people 65 and older will increase by 75%. This means that in the coming years, one in five people will be considered a senior citizen. This large population of aging citizens will require more and more nurses.

Nursing is also a very stressful profession. Long hours and demanding and sometimes traumatic working conditions can lead to burnout, depression, and substance abuse. It is estimated that one and ten – and perhaps as many as two in ten – nurses grapple with drug and alcohol issues.


Nursing practice in the State of California is administered and supervised by the Board of Registered Nursing or BRN. The BRN not only licenses nurses, it also regulates their professional behavior by enforcing the California’s Nursing Practice Act.

Complaints against a nurse can be made to the BRN by anyone – a patient, a family member, a co-worker or an employer. The most common complaints faced by nurses include:

  • Allegations of professional negligence
  • Conviction of a criminal act
  • Drug theft and
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

The BRN takes its administrative and enforcement responsibilities very seriously. This is especially true since a shakeup that occurred within the Board in 2009.

In that year, the L.A. times published articles that exposed lax enforcement of the Nursing Practice Act by the Board. Within days of the publication of the articles, then Governor Schwarzenegger removed most of the Board members. Within weeks, the Board made plans to triple its enforcement staff, adding nearly 50 new enforcement positions by 2010. As a result, the number of investigations into nursing complaints increased.

According to the Board, the number of investigations into complaints increased from 563 in 2007 to 8,407 in 2010. This trend still continues today. In 2016, the Board investigated 7,757 complaints that resulted in over 1,400 disciplinary outcomes and over 1,700 referrals to the Office of the California Attorney General.


As a nurse, if you are experiencing personal and professional problems due to stress, be it chemical dependence, mental illness or other problems, it is important that you take proactive steps to save both your health and your professional license. The BRN offers a Nursing Home Diversion Program specifically designed to help chemically dependent or mentally ill nurses. If you voluntarily come forward and enroll in the Diversion Program, formal disciplinary action may be avoided. You may not be able to practice while enrolled in the program. However, you will be taking the steps necessary to get your life back in order while protecting your ability to work in the future at the same time.

On the other hand, if you are convicted of a crime, let’s say driving under the influence, that conviction will be automatically reported to the BRN and trigger a disciplinary action. This is because a DUI conviction or any conviction involving drugs and alcohol is considered a violation of the Nursing Practice Act that the BRN is responsible for enforcing.

This type of conviction will not result in an automatic revocation of your license. However, it must be taken seriously.


If you receive notification from the BRN that you are the subject of a complaint or investigation, consulting with an experienced attorney can help you avoid revocation or license suspension and allow you to walk away with a citation, fine, Letter of Public Reprimand, or probation so that you can continue to work.

You worked hard to receive your license. You need to work equally hard when it is being threatened. In some cases, a nurse may not have engaged in misconduct but is instead the target of an unwarranted complaint. In other cases, as discussed above, there has been non-typical criminal behavior brought about by stress. In both cases, an attorney experienced in professional license defense can begin an immediate investigation into the facts of your case. From these facts, they can prepare a defense that will protect your license as well as your professional reputation.

Don’t think that you can explain your situation to the BRN alone and make the problem disappear. Many times, every word you say only makes matters worse. The BRN is one of the strictest licensing boards in the nation. Their job is not to protect your interests. Their job is to protect the public from negligent and criminal practitioners. Once a complaint against you or knowledge of a criminal conviction is received, they will proceed accordingly.


If you are facing investigation by the BRN due to a complaint or a criminal conviction, talk to an experienced California nursing license defense attorney. Your job and your future may depend upon it. Contact us to schedule a consultation or call us at (916) 730-5251.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.