More California Registered Nurses Shown As Convicted Criminals

Wed, December 30th, 2009 - 5:49 am - By Gordon Basichis

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As the Co-Founder of Corra Group, a background checking service, I have watched with mixture of fascination and concern as more and more public service agencies are discovering many of their employment hires who have criminal records are going undetected.   This is true for State and public service agencies and in the healthcare sector as well.  In some cases the services failed to conduct adequate background checks.  In other cases the services conducted background checks, but by the time they were returned no one either bothered to review them or overlooked some damning information.

As I remarked on one of my blog postings on December 14th, 2009, Temp Nursing Firms Unhealthy for Background Checks and Hiring Practices, there are many egregious occasions where nurses with substance abuse problems, felony convictions, or records as criminal sex offenders, moved around from state to state to find gainful employment in spite of their background histories.   Temporary staffing agencies worked hard to get them hired.  Either the temp agencies did not conduct background checks or did such a perfunctory job that many nurses with criminal convictions were allowed to slip through the cracks.

Now the Los Angeles Times reports that its joint study with ProPublica has initiated a concentrated effort by the California State Board of Registered Nursing to fingerprint its job applicants and conduct background checks, before allowing them to be hired.   Results show that dozens of Registered Nurses have been convicted of serious crimes ranging from murder to sex offenses.   According to the Times article, the Licensing Board either didn’t know about the nurses’ convictions or didn’t act on them once they did.

The joint study from  he Times and ProPublica found that in 115 cases the state had not sought to discipline nurses until they acquired three or more convictions.   It also shows that many of the convictions were for misdemeanors, ranging from drunken driving to petty theft and fraud.  There were in all 1900 such cases and 1,300 were closed without the state taking action.

There are  a number of reasons for this lack of oversight.  Technology needs to be upgraded, and databases need to be updated.  And most of all, responsible parties have to actually conduct these background checks and then review the results when they are returned.    We can blame some of the lackadaisical attitude on budget restrictions due to a bad economy.   We can attribute it to the fat different public service agencies haven’t adjusted to the fact this is a different age and the people they hire, regardless of their position, are not necessarily candidates for  a Norman Rockwell painting.  But then you can also attribute it to the fact that staffing agencies don’t bother conducting background checks and people don’t bother reviewing them once they are returned.

Realize, too, there are nearly 140,000 nurses registered in California.   Proportionately speaking, this is a relatively small percentage that have criminal convictions.  But still, these nurses are the people the public trusts with its well being and its valuables.   We wouldn’t be so trusting if it was, say, someone off the street without nursing credentials.  But the fact that they are Registered Nurses makes us want to trust them.   We are usually sick and vulnerable when we require their services, and psychologically speaking we want to put our hands in someone we can count on.   It’sno smallt hing to fear they will mistreat us, rob us, and steal our drugs.

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