Minn. governor vows to tighten oversight of nursing misconduct

The Minnesota Board of Nursing "tolerates or forgives misconduct that would end nursing careers in other states," an investigation by the Minneapolis Star Tribune found.

The newspaper looked at records of more than 1,000 disciplinary actions over four years to reach its conclusions. Among the findings:

  • Since 2010, more than 260 nurses with records of unsafe practices, including some leading to patients' deaths, continue to be licensed by the state.
  • Of the 260 nurses, 88 have been charged or convicted of crimes including assault and theft of drugs.
  • Nurses routinely keep their licenses after admitting to multiple cases of misconduct, or have their licenses restored following multiple suspensions.

Minnesota is one of only 10 states that grant licenses to felons without restrictions, the Star Tribune said, citing a 2012 survey.

Shirley Brekken, executive director of the Nursing Board, said the board often resolves discipline problems by recommending close supervision and training that allows nurses to stay on the job

Gov. Mark Dayton told the newspaper he would look into reconstituting the Nursing Board, revising its procedures, and otherwise making it clear the standards for nursing licenses should be much higher. He said he would start with appointments to two open seats on the board.

"It would appear the board is more interested in protecting bad nurses than the public," he said. "Where does it come from that their job is to give subpar nurses chance after chance after chance?"

The findings follow an August USA Today investigation revealing state medical boards regularly allow physicians who have been banned by hospitals or other medical facilities for misconduct or negligent patient care to keep their licenses.

More than half of 6,000 doctors who had their clinical privileges restricted or revoked between 2001 and 2011 kept their licenses or faced no fines, according to USA Today. Nearly 250 doctors kept their licenses after being sanctioned by healthcare facilities as a threat to health or safety; 900 others were cited for conduct including negligence and incompetence kept their licenses as well.

For more information:
- read the Star Tribune report
- here's the USA Today article