Public Letter of Reproval
Outside of an outright dismissal, this is the lowest form of discipline available to most health care practitioners facing license discipline.
When a health care practitioner is facing license discipline in a matter where there is no doubt as to whether the underlying misconduct or mistake took place, typically the "dream scenario" for the licensee is getting offered a Public Letter of Reproval (a/k/a Reprimand). Outside of an outright dismissal of the charges--typically not realistic in a case where the licensee has effectively admitted to the wrongdoing (either through a criminal conviction or an investigatory interview)--the PLR is the next best thing.
What about a citation?
Well, not ever licensing agency even issues citations. They are almost non-existent for health care practitioners. Moreover, they are not possible after a Statement of Issues or Accusation has been filed by the licensing agency. As such, the PLR is the next best thing.
When is a PLR Appropriate?
They are rarely given. They are limited to cases where the harm, misconduct, or error has been minimal, or the underlying conviction minor. Examples include charting errors, failure to get a witness wasting a medication, giving medication on an expired order, and minor patient care issues.
What is the PLR?
The PLR is actually exactly what it sounds like. As a form of discipline, the agency issues a letter that is attached to your license and publicly available for inspection.
This letter will say something like:
<INSERT Health Care Professional> is hereby publicly reprimanded for violating the <INSERT Health Care Profession> Practice Act by failing to <INSERT Wrondgoing> on <INSERT Date>. However, based upon sufficient mitigating evidence, evidence of rehabilitation, and/or character evidence, <INSERT Health Care Professional> has shown that <he/she> is not a public threat.
That’s it, folks. That is a PLR.
Specifically, the letter is written by the Board, Chairperson, or President of the agency to the licensee and includes a summary of the allegations. It acknowledges the impropriety of the acts summarized, but that further discipline is not warranted. It can include mandated coursework that the licensee must take, cost recovery for investigation. Theoretically, it may include any other term or condition listed in the agency's Disciplinary Guidelines as permitted for the PLR, but beyond coursework and repayment, those terms are rare.
The requirement that an education course in safe practices associated within the health care profession typically must be completed within a 3 to 12 month period of time after issuance of the letter.
So, Can I Continue Practicing?
There are no restrictions that come along with a PLR.
Practice restrictions, employment restrictions, supervision, monitoring, and reporting only occurs in the event you are placed on probation. So, you will able to continue to practice as a health care professional in whatever capacity you were before.
keep in mind that probation typically prevents the licensee subject to probation from supervising or instructing others. It also compels their employer to provide sufficient supervision for it. It may also forbid types of employment (e.g. home health care aide, travelling nurse, etc.). And it compels you to acquire hours of practice in the state of California.
This is why PLRs are so critical. You typically can keep your job.
How do I get a PLR?
Overwhelming contrition, evidence of rehablitiation, mitigation, and good character, and just good ole' fashioned luck.
PLRs have always been an option to licensing agencies, but they have gone out of favor in the past 5 years. As a result, many licensing agencies stick to 3-year probation as the minimal form of discipline after an Accusation has been filed. And that was the case no matter what happened, how contrite the licensee was/is, and no matter how extensive, diverse, and deep their evidence of rehabilitation, mitigation, and character were at the time of settlement negotiation. Even after prehearing and settlement conferences, it is next-to-near impossible to get it offered.
Rather, PLRs are usually only given after a proposed decision by an administrative law judge after a contested hearing on the Accusation. And even then, it is a proposed decision--the licensing agency still has an opportunity to reject it and impose its own form of discipline. Which they still regularly do.
So, if you have a PLR as a settlement offer or final decision after hearing, consider yourself lucky.
How Long Does it Last?
It does not officially go away. Rather, it is a part of the licensee's license history. However, it does gain some "invisibility," after three years or so. The "invisibility" is on the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) BreEZe Online Service. BreEZe is DCA's licensing and enforcement system. It enables consumers to verify a professional license and file a consumer complaint.
The PLR gets attached to your license and remains published and available on the BreEZe website system for at least 3 years. It can sometimes take a bit longer to remove, as it is a governmental system and is not always immediately maintained.
Moreover, the minimum 3-years does not start until all fines and enforcement costs associated within it have been paid in full. So, keep in mind when deciding how to handle that amount due to your licensing authority--if you elect a payment plan, the PLR remains for (at least) 3 years following payment of the fine. So, if you take 2 years to pay, the PLR will be there for (at least) 5 years.
Can I get it Removed Earlier than 3 Years?
No. The only way that the PLR will be removed, is once the 3 years has passed. There is no other way to have it removed.