California Board of Registered Nursing

Latest on California Board of Registered Nursing, Re-Est. 2016

What is the California Board of Registered Nursing?

The California Board of Registered Nursing is a state governmental agency established by law to protect the public by regulating the practice of registered nurses. The California Board of Registered Nursing is responsible for implementation and enforcement of the Nursing Practice Act: the laws related to nursing education, licensure, practice, and discipline. The Nursing Practice Act created a nine-member Board which serves as the California Board of Registered Nursing decision-making body.

History of the California Board of Registered Nursing

2012
The Board of Registered Nursing was re-established with a sunset date of January 1, 2016.
2011
The Board of Registered Nursing sunset and became the Registered Nursing Program. Third sunset review completed and presented before the California Legislature. The Board became a member of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Nursys® system which exchanges licensure verification and discipline information between states.
2010
Board re-organizes and adds internal investigators.
2009
Fingerprinting required on all registered nurses licensed prior to 1990.Governor implements $60 million as second round of five year funding for California Nurse Education Initiative.
2007
Board launches redesigned website.Board sunset date extended four years.
2006
Board member composition restructured: four public members, three direct patient care RNs, one RN educator, and one RN administrator.
2005
Governor implements the California Nurse Education Initiative which provided $90 million to expand and increase nurse education opportunities.
2003
Second sunset review completed and presented before the California Legislature resulted in extension of sunset date for four years.
2002
In collaboration with the Department of General Services, the Board developed an online application system for registered nurses endorsing to California from other states.
2001
The Board became the first California licensing agency to offer online professional license renewal services.The Board offered online license verification.Registered nurses became able to change their addresses, request a duplicate license and renew advanced practice certificates online.The Board streamlined the processing of out-of-state endorsements.
2000
The Board implemented Live-Scan procedures for fingerprinting applicants.National Council of State Boards of Nursing initiated a new computer system to exchange discipline information between states.
1999
The Board’s web page went live.
1998
Certification of Clinical Nurse Specialists established.
1997
First sunset review completed and presented before the California Legislature resulted in extension of sunset date for six years.The Board replaced paper licenses with tamper-resistant plastic card licenses.The Board developed an honorary certificate for retiring registered nurses.
1996
Citation and Fine program was implemented.
1994
The last pencil and paper test was given as Computer Adaptive Testing came into existence.Cost recovery program was implemented.
1993
Certification of public health nurses transferred from Department of Health Services to Board of Registered Nursing.
1992
Furnishing number for nurse midwives established.
1990
Fingerprinting was implemented for all applicants.
1988
National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) begins reporting scores as pass or fail instead of numeric scores.
1987
Furnishing numbers for nurse practitioners established.
1985
Mandatory certification of nurse practitioners established.Voluntary registration of psychiatric/mental health nurses established for third-party payer reimbursement purposes.The Board’s Diversion Program was established.
1984
Certification of nurse anesthetists established.
1982
National Council of State Boards of Nursing replaced National League for Nursing as the testing service and instituted a comprehensive examination called the National Council Licensure Examination (NLCEX).
1978
Voluntary certification of nurse practitioners established.Continuing education became mandatory for license renewal.
1977
Board member composition was established: three public members, three direct patient care RNs, one RN educator, one RN administrator, and one physician.
1976
International applicant licenses were no longer accepted for reciprocity, and were required to pass the State Board Test Pool Examination for licensure.
1975
Board’s name was changed to current Board of Registered Nursing.The Nursing Practice Act was amended significantly to provide the current description of nursing.Certification of nurse midwives was established.
1961
Board’s name was changed to Board of Nursing Education and Nurse Registration. One public board member was added.
1946
State Board Test Pool Exam (SBTPE) five-part examination was instituted provided by the National League for Nursing as the testing service.
1939
Board of Nurse Examiners was created by legislation within the Department of Professional and Vocational Standards.The mandatory Nursing Practice Act was established, regulating nursing through licensure of a defined scope of practice.Five registered nurse board members were appointed by the Governor.
1927
Bureau of Registration of Nurses was placed within the Department of Health under the State Board of Public Health.
1913
Legislature formed Bureau of Registration of Nurses under the State Board of Health. The Bureau was charged with administering the exam, registering qualified registered nurses, accrediting nursing schools, and revoking licenses of nurses found to be unsafe to practice.
1905
University of California Board of Regents was given power by the Legislature to set standards, administer exams, approve educational programs, issue certificates, and revoke certificates of registered nurses. Use of title “registered nurse” without certification was a misdemeanor.
Table for history of California Board of Registered Nursing

Who Serves on the California Board of Registered Nursing?

The nine-member Board is composed of four members of the public and five registered nurses. The five registered nurses include two direct-patient care nurses, an advanced practice nurse, a nurse administrator, and a nurse educator. Seven of the members are appointed by the Governor and two of the public members are appointed by the Legislature. Each member serves a four-year term and can be re-appointed, although the member cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.

Monthly Statistics of California Board of Registered Nursing

The following is an approximate breakdown of the current population licensed by the Board as of January 31, 2022:

DescriptionActiveInactiveTotal
Registered Nurses467,3389,885477,223
Clinical Nurse Specialists3,163873,250
Nurse Anesthetists2,756302,786
Nurse-Midwives1,343281,371
Nurse-Midwife Furnishing1,081111,092
Nurse Practitioners31,15713331,290
Nurse Practitioner Furnishing28,33210428,436
Psychiatric/Mental Health2165221
Public Health Nurse38,88654339,429
Continuing Education Providers2,105N/A2,105
Statistics for the California Board of Registered Nursing

How Does the California Board of Registered Nursing Protect Consumers?

The California Board of Registered Nursing regulates California registered nurses. There are over 430,000 registered nurses in California providing health care services in a variety of settings.

The California Board of Registered Nursing performs a variety of activities in its mission to protect consumers, including:

Setting RN Educational Standards

The BRN sets educational standards for nursing programs which prepare individuals to become licensed as registered nurses.

Approving California Nursing Programs

There are over 140 prelicensure nursing programs and over 50 advanced practice programs which have been approved because they meet BRN educational standards.

Evaluating Licensure Applications by California Board of Registered Nursing

Applications are evaluated to determine whether the applicant meets all licensure requirements. To be licensed the applicant must:

  • complete the educational requirements
  • pass a national licensing examination
  • be cleared through a background check for conviction of any crime which might make the applicant ineligible for licensure

Issuing and Renewing Licenses by California Board of Registered Nursing


Registered Nursing licenses are issued to applicants who meet the licensing requirements. The license must be renewed every two years.

Issuing Certificates California Board of Registered Nursing

The BRN issues certificates to eligible public health nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists. The BRN also maintains a list of eligible psychiatric/mental health nurse specialists.

photo of California Board of Registered Nursing wearing personal protective equipment
California Board of Registered Nursing jpg 1

Taking Disciplinary Action by California Board of Registered Nursing


If a nurse violates the Nursing Practice Act, the BRN may take disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. Grounds for discipline focus on behaviors that place patients at risk of harm. The disciplinary action is dependent on the nature and severity of the violation and what is necessary to protect the public. The disciplinary action becomes a part of the RN’s file and is accessible to the public.

Managing an Intervention Program by California Board of Registered Nursing


The BRN’s Intervention Program is an alternative to the discipline process for nurses whose practice may be impaired due to chemical dependency or mental illness. This confidential Program protects the public while enabling the nurse to be rehabilitated.

Operating an Online License Verification System by California Board of Registered Nursing


The BRN’s online license verification system allows the consumer to validate the status of a nurse’s license. Access the license verification system to learn if:

  • the person is licensed as an RN
  • the license is active, inactive, or lapsed
  • the nurse has any BRN certificates
  • there is any disciplinary action against the license

Online services are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Registered Nurses (RN) Use a Variety of Titles in Their Practice Including:

  • Staff or Charge Nurse
  • Nurse Manager
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Critical Care Nurse (CCRN)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Patient Care Coordinator

Settings Where Registered Nurses Practice Include:

  • health departments
  • health maintenance organizations
  • home health agencies
  • hospitals
  • private practice
  • schools
  • Prisons
  • skilled nursing facilities

Regardless of the title or setting, the registered nurse’s practice is governed by the Board of Registered Nursing.

How Can You Help California Board of Registered Nursing?

The BRN is committed to successfully achieving its mission to protect California’s health care consumers and promote quality nursing care. You can assist by:

  • Reporting to the BRN suspected violations of the Nursing Practice Act, such as registered nurses practicing in an unsafe or unprofessional manner, or unlicensed persons illegally providing nursing care
  • Informing the BRN of issues that affect the education and practice of California RN

What Other Resources are Available for Health Care Consumers?
Many individuals and agencies contribute to the status and quality of health care in California. Please refer to Related Links for a partial list of other regulatory agencies involved in the health care field.

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