California Board of Nursing Diversion Program

California Board of Nursing Diversion ProgramThe California Board of Registered Nursing (“Board”) provides a Diversion Program (“Program”) that is a confidential, but voluntary program for registered nurses where their substance use disorder or mental illness impairs their practice. The Programs goal is to protect the public with the early identification of impaired registered nurses and by providing these nurses access to the required treatment services and intervention programs. The public is protected with the careful monitoring of the nurse, and if required, may even suspend the nurse of practice.

What are the services provided by the California Board of Nursing Diversion Program?

For the public:

  • Help in preparing to talk with registered nurses about any apparent problem
  • Private consultations with the concerned employers, public, family members,co-workers, consumers of nursing care and friends
  • Protects the public with an immediate intervention, which is an effective option to a longer disciplinary process
  • Ensure the nurse participant a secure and smooth transition to nursing practice by consulting the employers

For the Program’s Registered Nurses

  • Private consultations while thinking about joining the program
  • Examination and referral to discuss the right treatment or detoxification
  • Create a rehabilitation plan for mental illnesses or substance use disorders
  • Random tests of body fluids
  • Holding talks with employers to assure the nurse participant a smooth and secure transition back to nursing practice
  • Supporting, guiding and encouraging the registered nurse to recover as an effective substitute to taking any disciplinary action and ensuring the registered nurse can resume nursing practice

Registered nurses are not immune from mental illnesses or diseases of substance use disorder. The stresses of working in health care environment and the increased opportunity and access to controlled substances make all health care professionals, including registered nurses susceptible to substance abuse problems.

There are many registered nurses with substance use disorders who can find the assistance and support they require to stay clean and sober without any involvement from the BRN. Though mental illness is not so prevalent, it can affect a registered nurse’s ability at practicing safely. For example, any untreated major depression problem seriously effects any person.

Unfortunately, most of the people who suffer from these mental illnesses or substance use disorder deny they have a problem. In fact, most of the time, they are the last to recognize they have a problem, and admit that they need help. Any mental illness or substance use problem which is left untreated eventually jeopardizes the patient’s safety and health, and even threaten the afflicted person’s life. The Diversion Program also provides a good substitute to the traditional disciplinary procedure.


Eligible registered nurses are those who are:

  • Suffering from mental illness or abuse alcohol or drugs so much that it affects their nursing practice
  • Licensed and residing in California
  • Ready to undergo appropriate psychiatric or medical evaluations and voluntarily enter the program

The ineligible nurses are those who have:

  • Sold drugs
  • Harmed patients or caused death
  • Been disciplined for substance abuse or mental illness by the board
  • Been terminated after joining this program or any other diversion program for non-compliance

Getting into the Program

Nurses can enter the program in one of two methods:

  • Board-Referral where the Board refers registered nurses to the Diversion Program because of a complaint indicating the RN is impaired because of mental illness or substance use disorder. In case a nurse decides not to enter the program, the complaint is transferred to the Enforcement Program for possible disciplinary actions after investigation.
  • Self-Referral– Registered nurses seeking assistance can directly contact the program


The staff of the Diversion Program are available for private consultations about possible referrals to the program. The law protects the confidentiality of the participants. So when a nurse enters the program, all information collected to help in developing a rehabilitation plan and any other related recorded information is kept confidential.

The Diversion Program records are destroyed when a nurse successfully completes it. In case a nurse does not successfully complete the program, any original complaint is investigated by the Board’s Enforcement Program.