• Board drops ball on vetting nursing applicants Monday, June 28, 2010

    This would seem to be one of those basic, common-sense steps that a regulator of health-care professionals would undertake as a routine part of vetting applicants for California nursing licenses: Check to see if the applicant had been licensed — and disciplined — in another state.

    But apparently the California Board of Registered Nursing hadn’t been bothering with that bit of obvious due diligence, which is as easy as matching names to a database maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. As a result, some 3,500 nurses who have been disciplined in other states have been licensed to nurse in California, including several hundred who have lost their licenses elsewhere, according to this report by Pro Publica, via the Los Angeles Times.

    The board finally checked its 376,000 license holders against the database after an earlier report by Pro Publica reporters Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein (both former colleagues of mine at the Times). From their new story story:

    California’s nursing board has historically done little to check whether its nurses were running into trouble anywhere. Until late 2008, the state did not require nurses, when renewing their licenses, to reveal whether they’d been disciplined elsewhere. The board checked their records against the national council’s database of disciplinary actions only when they initially applied for a California license. Board President Ann Boynton said the board now plans to pay the national council to run checks of California nurses on a quarterly basis.The risks of not checking can be serious. The Times/ProPublica investigation detailed cases in which nurses sanctioned in another state moved to California and were later accused of misconduct.

    Nurse Beverley Cathey, for instance, came to California after being put on probation in North Carolina in November 2006 for failing to account for drugs she’d signed out, falsifying records and providing negligent care. Four Los Angeles-area hospitals filed six complaints against her in August and September of 2007, according to records from a temporary staffing firm that hired Cathey.

    The California board did not file a public accusation against her license until August 2009, nearly two years after North Carolina indefinitely suspended her.

    Regulators not regulating. Again.

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