Just CONTACTING the BRN’s Diversion Program Can Deactivate Your RN License

RN Guardian was contacted 5 weeks ago by a California Registered Nurse who had been offered the Board of Registered Nursing’s Diversion Program and didn’t know what to do. This is a touchy area: the Diversion Program is a wonderful resource for nurses struggling with alcohol dependence or a chemical dependence issue, but it is not right for everyone. It is also a very personal decision, because an RN must do some honest soul searching before making the decision to enter the program. All I can do is give the nurse all of her options and let her know the ramifications of each choice.

For this particular RN, diversion was going to be nearly impossible because she has a medical condition that requires pain medication- which would not be allowed while in the diversion program. Also, her “incident” was a very isolated one- and technically the diversion program shouldn’t accept a nurse for an isolated incident without a dependency problem. But she was still so torn, so I suggested that she contact the diversion program and ask them some questions to determine if she would even be a candidate… which would certainly help clarify the issue. She went through the initial consultation and requested additional information and was told a packet would be sent to her and that she had a 1 week window in which to decide. At the end of the week she contacted the diversion program coordinator and declined inclusion in the program. She had decided that she didn’t have the luxury of being out of work for an indefinite amount of time, nor would she be able to function without her prescribed pain medication.

Fully expecting that the Board would now investigate the incident, she checked her license status and to her horror, found that her license had been placed on an inactive status. The next day she received a letter stating that she had been terminated from the Diversion program. She called RN Guardian in a justified panic wanting to know how this could have happened.

The diversion program is privately contracted through a company called Maximus, by the BRN- it is NOT a Board of Nursing run program. The intake process is with a Maximus intake counselor or case coordinator. If the nurse accepts inclusion into the diversion program, Maximus notifies the BRN and the RN’s license is placed on inactive status and as not reactivated until Maximus deems the nurse “recovered enough” and fit to return to work. If a nurse does not comply with the requirements of the program or voluntarily leaves the program, they are considered “terminated.” Maximus will notify the BRN that the nurse has been terminated form the Diversion program and then the BRN will likely begin an investigation into whatever incident precipitated the nurse’s joining diversion in the first place.

I recommended that my nurse write a letter to the BRN’s Diversion Coordinator explaining that she had never entered the program, therefore she could not have quit nor could she have been terminated. She sent the letter to our panel attorneys for review, making sure she didn’t include anything that could incriminate her further. I suggested that she continue to call the coordinator daily to check her status, which she did. 3 weeks later I received the following email from my client:

Jennifer, Just wanted to let you know that I received a phone call from Diversion Coordinator yesterday & she told me that my license status has been changed back to Active. I asked her why it had been changed in the first place & she told me that I had quit the Diversion Program. I told her, once again that I had NEVER entered the program. I had only had a phone conversation to get information with more info sent to me in the mail & decided that Diversion was not for me. She kind of paused & then said that if that was the case, it had been done in error.

I thought it important to share the experience of this nurse to shed light on the power of the Board of Nursing and to caution nurses against divulging too much information to the Diversion program, even at the initial intake stage. My concern now for my client is that if she had been “terminated” from the diversion program, then according the Nurse Practice Act, the intake coordinator can hand over the file to the Board and the Board can use all the information gathered during the intake process against the nurse.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have been contacted by the Board of Nursing or offered the BRN’s diversion program, please make sure to call us first. I wouldn’t want another nurse’s license jeopardized because of a BRN “error.” Even physicians at risk of losing their license should call us. We’ll answer your questions and get you the help you need.