A Study of California Nurses Placed on Probation


Renae Waneka, Joanne Spetz, Dennis Keane

March 19, 2011

The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is responsible for protecting the health and safety of the public by regulating registered nurses (RNs) in the state. Nurses put on probation by the BRN have been disciplined for behavior that could jeopardize patient health or safety. Thus, analyzing characteristics of these RNs and their likelihood of recidivism can inform BRN policies regarding this population of nurses, and address concerns over the presence of these nurses in hospitals and other health care settings. The BRN commissioned the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), to research characteristics of these nurses and the outcomes of their probation. This report represents the first effort to describe the demographic characteristics of California RNs on probation, as well as the offenses that lead to probation and recidivism.

This study was modeled after work conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The BRN used the data extraction form used in the NCSBN study to collect data on all nurses who were on probation in California in 2004 or 2005 (n=282). The probation data include demographics, location of pre-licensure nursing education, history of legal or disciplinary action prior to the probation under study, change in employment during probation, grounds for probation, outcomes of probation and recidivism. A second set of nurses was selected as a control group; this is a group of 298 RNs who had no probation history as of 2005. They may have had a previous criminal history that did not result in probation by the BRN. The control group was randomly selected so that they have the same numbers of nurses as the disciplined nurses in terms of age and initial RN education.