Wider Background Check Measures Find Nurses With Criminal Records
Dozens of registered nurses who have been convicted of crimes such as murder, sex offenses, assault and robbery have been identified by the California Board of Registered Nursing, which now requires fingerprints from caregivers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Before March, nurses who had received licenses before 1990 were exempt from giving fingerprints, which are used to inform regulators about previous arrests. However, after an October 2008 investigation by the Times and not-for-profit news organization ProPublica found that regulators often did not know about nurses' previous convictions and did not act in a timely manner after learning of them, the board took steps to require all California nurses to submit their fingerprints.
After expanding its review of nurses' criminal records, the board found that the majority of crimes for which nurses were arrested are misdemeanors. However, as of November, the records showed at least 65 major crimes.
The board has referred at least 13 cases to the state attorney general to begin disciplinary action against the nurses involved (Weber/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 12/26/09).
Sanctioned Nurses Free To Work in New Locales
Another Times/ProPublica investigation found that caregivers with sanctions in one state can cross into other states and work without restriction, the Times reports.
Using public databases and state disciplinary reports, researchers found hundreds of cases in which registered nurses had no problems reported on their records in some states after they were reprimanded in others, often for serious mistreatment of patients.
A month-long review of California records found that 177 of its 350,000 active nurses had their licenses revoked, surrendered, suspended or denied in other states.Although each state sets its own criteria for punishable behavior for nurses, all states in general can discipline a nurse based on actions taken by another state. However, states vary in how quickly or harshly they act on information about nurses, based on interviews that researchers conducted with regulators in 14 states (Ornstein et al., Los Angeles Times, 12/27/09). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.