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The Complaint Process

The Board of Registered Nursing regulates the practice of registered nurses and certified advanced practice nurses in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare. The Board exists to protect patients by ensuring that registered nurses are competent and safe to practice. The Nursing Practice Act located in the California Business and Professions Code is the body of the law that authorizes the Board to accomplish this.

The following information is provided to help you understand the complaint process:

Who Can/Should file a complaint with the Board of Registered Nursing?

A complaint should be filed by anyone who believes that a licensee of the Board has engaged in illegal activities which are related to his/her professional responsibilities. ALLEGATIONS MAY INCLUDE gross negligence or incompetence, unprofessional conduct, license application fraud, misrepresentation, substance abuse, mental illness and unlicensed activity. Complaints received by the Board of Registered Nursing are reviewed to determine if the Board has the authority to investigate the complaint. The Board can only investigate registered nurses (RNs) who are licensed by the Board, applicants for licensure, or individuals who hold themselves out to the public as RNs. The Board can only investigate complaints that, if found to be valid, are violations of the Nursing Practice Act or the regulations that have been adopted by the Board.

Complaints involving allegations which are not within the jurisdiction of this Board will be referred to other agencies which may be better able to assist the complainant. If the Board does not know of another agency that can investigate the complaint, a letter is sent to the person who filed the complaint advising that no investigation will be conducted. ALLEGATIONS WHICH ARE NOT WITHIN THE AUTHORITY OF THE BOARD include fee/billing disputes, general business practices, personality conflicts, providers licensed by other boards/bureaus, such as physicians, chiropractors, dentists, hospitals, vocational nurses, psychiatric technicians, nursing assistants, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, and pharmacists. Complaints related to facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes should be brought to the attention of the California Department of Public Health.

How Do I File a Complaint?

Complaints may be filed by completing the complaint form and submitting to:

Board of Registered Nursing
Attn: Complaint Intake
PO Box 944210
Sacramento, CA 94244-2100
Fax: (916) 574-7693

In filing your complaint, the information you provide will determine the action the Board will take. The most effective complaints are those that contain firsthand, verifiable information. Therefore, please provide a statement, in your own words, which describes the nature of your complaint. Please include as many specific details as possible, including dates and times, as well as any documentary evidence related to your complaint. The emphasis should be on providing necessary factual information. While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, they may be impossible to pursue unless they document evidence of the allegations made.

How are Complaints Processed?

Within 10 days after receipt of the complaint, the Board sends a written notification of receipt to the complainant. Complaints containing allegations of the greatest consequences (e.g. gross negligence/incompetence, patient abuse, etc.) are given priority attention. The complaint is then investigated by the Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation and/or Board nursing consultants. If no violation can be substantiated, the case is closed and the complainant is notified. Investigations which provide evidence that the nurse has violated the Nursing Practice Act and that the violation warrants formal disciplinary action will be resolved by informal or formal proceedings. If a case involves unlicensed or criminal activity, it is referred to the local district attorney for prosecution.

To ensure that the success of the investigation is not jeopardized in any way, the details of the investigation remain confidential and are not public record. If, however, disciplinary or criminal action is taken, some information may become a matter of public record. In addition, if disciplinary action or criminal action is taken, you may be called to testify as a possible witness.

General Information

The entire complaint review, investigation and legal review process may take an extended period of time depending on the complexity of the case. During the investigation stage, all information is confidential and may not be discussed. When a case is finally resolved, you will be notified of the action taken by the Board except in the case of anonymous complaints. Please keep in mind that any action taken by the Board of Registered Nursing has no impact on civil remedies which may be available to you. If you have questions about filing a complaint please call (916) 557-1213.

Complaint Process

The Diversion Program

The Board of Registered Nursing's Diversion Program is a rehabilitation program for nurses whose practice may be impaired due to chemical dependency and/or mental illness. The program is designed to provide intervention at the earliest signs of impaired practice which point to chemical dependency or mental illness, long before public harm occurs. When a report or complaint comes to the Board, it is analyzed to determine whether the nurse is a candidate for the Diversion Program. When a nurse who qualifies to participate in the program is identified, the nurse is given an opportunity to participate in the program as an alternative to disciplinary action against the license. The Diversion Program strictly monitors participants to ensure public safety. For more information on the Diversion Program, please call (916) 574-7692 (Note: By law, this is a confidential program. The complainant will not be notified if a nurse enters the Diversion Program or successfully completes the Diversion Program.) Link to Diversion Program pages.