The Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is one of several professional regulatory boards and bureaus that exist within the Department of Consumer Affairs. The BRN has the primary responsibility of licensing and regulating registered nurses in California. The BRN’sresponsibilities come from the Nursing Practice Act, which is composed of California statutes that give the BRN, among other functions, the authority to manage a Diversion Program for registered nurses.
The Diversion Program is a voluntary, confidential program for registered nurses whose practice may be impaired due to substance use disorder or mental illness. The goal of the Diversion 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.
Registered nurses are not immune from the diseases of substance use disorder or mental illness. Experts estimate that at least 10% of the general population will have a problem with alcohol or drugs at some point in their lives. Health care professionals, including registered nurses, may be particularly susceptible to substance abuse problems due to the stresses of working in a health care environment and due to an increased opportunity to obtain controlled substances.
Many registered nurses who experience problems with substance use disorders are able to find the help and support they need to stay clean and sober without BRN involvement.
Mental illness, although not as prevalent, is also a disease that may affect a registered nurse’s ability to practice safely. For example, untreated major depression can seriously impair an individual.
Unfortunately, most people suffering from substance use disorder or mental illness deny the problem. Many times they are the last to recognize and admit that they need help. If mental illness or substance use disorder problems are left untreated, they may eventually jeopardize patient health and safety. They can also threaten the life of the person afflicted.
In these cases, it becomes imperative that those individuals who detect substance abuse or mental health problems in a registered nurse take action. Without intervention, diseases have predictable courses and outcomes. The BRN’s Diversion Program aims to identify symptoms, intervene, and change the outcomes.
The Diversion Program also provides an effective alternative to the traditional disciplinary process.
Yes! Over 1,900 registered nurses have successfully completed the program. To complete the Diversion Program, a nurse with a substance use disorder must demonstrate a change in lifestyle that supports continuing recovery and have a minimum of 24 consecutive months of clean, random, body-fluid tests. A nurse with a history of mental illness must demonstrate the ability to identify the symptoms or triggers of the disease and be able to take immediate action to prevent an escalation of the disease.
The success of the Diversion Program is due to close monitoring of participants for an average of three years, but more importantly, it is attributable to the encouragement, support and guidance provided to nurses by other nurses.
Diversion Program staff are available for confidential consultation regarding possible referral to the Diversion Program.
The confidentiality of participants is protected by law. Once a nurse enters the program, the information gathered to assist in developing a rehabilitation plan, and all other information in their record, is confidential.
When a nurse successfully completes the Diversion Program, the Diversion Program records are destroyed. If a nurse does not successfully complete the program, the original complaint, if any, is investigated by the Board’s Enforcement Program. (As of January 1, 2000, Diversion Program records may be forwarded to the Board’s Enforcement Program if a registered nurse who is terminated from the Diversion Program presents a threat to the public or his or her own health and safety.
For general program information, to schedule intake appointments or interventions, and for questions regarding monitoring nurses in the program, call 1-800-522-9198.
For questions regarding the Diversion Program or the Board of Registered Nursing’s role in protecting public safety and identifying impaired practitioners, contact the Board’s Diversion and Probation Programs Manager and staff at (916) 322-3350.
At the Board of Registered Nursing meeting on February 6, we found out that there have been extensive problems with the new electronic processing system for licensing that was installed in the fall of 2013. The new system – BreEZe – should have been more efficient and reliable than the old system.
Kathy Hughes, Jeannie King, Grace Corse, and I attended the meeting and listened to a nursing student pleading to know when he was going to be allowed to take the NCLEX exam. He said that he had been waiting for months and had two job offers that would start in March. The Board said it could not fast track anybody as that would put everybody else further behind, estimating that there are about 1000 licensing/renewal cases on the backlog. This is not acceptable.
The Board states that their mission is to protect the public, but how can it do that if experienced nurses cannot practice without being able to renew their licenses? What kind of impression does the Board give our new nursing students when they cannot even process their requests to sit for exams?
Twelfth District Assemblymember Kristin Olsen wrote a letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee requesting an audit of policies and procedures on the planning, development, and implementation of BreEZe. You can read her letter here.
Our hope is that the Board will hire some extra staff to get through the backlog and have the vendor of the BreEZe fix the system ASAP. Please let me know what kind of problems you and your coworkers have experienced.
Please complete your applications prior to August 31, 2013 in order to avoid delays.
The Department of Consumer Affairs will be transitioning to the new BreEZe online licensing and enforcement system in mid-September. During this transition, there will be temporary disruptions in cashiering and other services.
If your license renewal date is anytime in September, these disruptions could affect you.
Please renew your license early! Do not wait and risk a late renewal!
UPDATE, 9/11/13: We have just learned that The BRN website will be offline from September 30 to October 10 to start the BreeZe system. Be sure to get your license renewed if your dates are in this shut down period! For more on this, click here.