Fake Nurse Conviction and the Need for Healthcare Background Checks

Mon, January 10th, 2011 - 6:03 am - By Gordon Basichis

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A woman is going to jail for practicing nursing without a license.   According to an article  on the NBC Connecticut website, the woman staged a dinner where she honored herself as “Nurse of the Year.”   The Connecticut Nursing Association was the supposed responsible host for the Nurse of the Year Award.  Thing is, this organization does not exist.    Talk about some chutzpah.

As it turns out the women’s ruse wasn’t discovered until the doctor for who she was working for thought she had behaved unprofessionally.  He instigated an investigation that turned up the fact that his employee did not possess a nursing license.   Apparently, among other things, the convicted woman had been writing drug  prescriptions for herself.  So now she will be a guest of the state for approximately nine months.

I would like to think of this as a rare situation, a deviation from the norm.  It probably is.  However, on deeper levels the nursing and entire healthcare industry has been rife with complaints that those employees who have been hired have in their past convicted felonies, drug abuse issues, and numerous disciplinary actions taken against them.   The felonies included sex offenses, theft, battery, forgery…the list goes on.   Disciplinary actions have included anything from drug theft to abuse of the elderly patients or younger patients left in their care.

Pro Publica, the award winning media watchdog, has published numerous articles related to nursing and healthcare abuses.   The one article, a study in conjunction with the Los Angeles Times, about Nursing Abuses in California, earned them a Pulitzer Prize.  I have written about healthcare abuse on a number of occasions.   One such article was entitled, The Increased Need for Hospitals to Conduct Background Checks.  Others, in  fact many others have also written about abuses and shoddy practices in the healthcare industry.

Even state and public service agencies are hardly immune.   It seems at least once a week there is a new report about one state agency or public service organization being sued and otherwise embarrassed for hiring healthcare workers who are serious convicted felons or have committed abuses.   Usually, the employee in question is caught at committing a wrongful act and is subsequently investigated.  Then it is revealed either passed abuses, serious felonies, substance abuse issues.  Some healthcare workers are discovered on the sex offender registry.   These are people around the fragile and the vulnerable, including children.

You would think that after all this public exposure it would make sense to have a comprehensive employment screening program in place.   You would think that it would be prudent to conduct background checks on potential employees.   And you would think, if you did conduct background checks those responsible would review them thoroughly once the report was returned.   You know, as in read it and see whether or not you are hiring  a potential problem.

Even with the lousy economy it would be more economically feasible to conduct rigorous employee screening.   Yes, it may cost a few bucks, but it goes a long way in avoiding serious liability issues, including costly lawsuits, public embarrassment, and possible disciplinary actions from enforcement agencies.   But staffing groups, healthcare recruiters, and even hospitals have been remiss in conducting the necessary background checks and then reviewing them carefully once the reports are completed.   While some information for whatever reason slips through the cracks, in many cases the damning evidence is in the report.  Only no one bothered to read it or perceive it as a relevant issue.   It’s amazing.

So now we have advanced to the point where healthcare industry workers not only have a checkered past, or an expired license, a revoked license, taken away for disciplinary action.   But they may not have ever had a license at all.

So while we debate healthcare, its pros and cons, whether this new program will be working or not, perhaps we should also take a better look at the healthcare industry itself.    It could use some tightening up.    Because at the end of the day, where you are PPO, HMO, in a group plan or government plan, you want to be sure the employees assigned to take care of you will not end up causing any harm.

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