CA nursing board leaves dangerous nurses on job

In theory, professional medical boards exist to protect patients from dangerous clinicians. In practice, however, that's not always the case. That's particularly true in the state of California, where the Board of Registered Nursing is far too bogged down to protect the public from many dangerous professionals, according to a new investigation by the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Times, which has done a comprehensive research project on nurse discipline by the board, it takes three years, on average, to investigate and discipline nurses who may pose a danger to the public. In at least six other large states, meanwhile, it takes a year or less.

Not only is the California board slow to find bad nurses, too often it fails to act against nurses whose misconduct has been documented by others, including employers, other licensing boards or other states. Despite these black marks on their records, such nurses may have a spot-free reputation in California, researchers concluded.

Yet another the several documented is that the board has frequently failed to immediately stop potentially dangerous nurses from practicing. In examining more than 2,000 cases of disciplinary action from 2002 to 2008, along with court, personnel and regulatory reports, researchers found that the board got emergency suspensions of nurses' licenses just 29 times from 2002 to 2007, compared with 70 times per year in Florida, which supervises 40 percent fewer nurses.

While nursing board members themselves admit that the process is far too slow, they say that other parts of state bureaucracy are responsible for the delays. The board has set plans to add staff, meet with investigators about stalled cases and improve the use of technology to track complaints, but these remain in the future, with little assurance how soon this will take place, critics say.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this Los Angeles Times article