Some 3,500 nurses in California who were penalized for misconduct in other states are licensed to work in California, according to the Los Angeles Times/ProPublica. Of those, nearly 2,000 nurses will face sanctions.
California's Board of Registered Nursing discovered the magnitude of the problem after a Times/ProPublica investigation in 2009 uncovered hundreds of instances in which California nurses punished in other states for sexual abuse, neglect, and criminal actions were maintaining clean licenses in California.
To find out which nurses posed a threat to patient safety, the nursing board ran its list of 376,000 active and inactive nurses against a database maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, to which 37 states and D.C., voluntarily report disciplinary actions. Nurses who had been disciplined by several states, sometimes for the same kind of misconduct, popped up among the matches.
More than 1,700 active nurses in California were disciplined by other states for misbehavior. More than 400 California nurses with active licenses were punished with probation in other states, nearly 400 were reprimanded or censured, and another 200 were suspended.
While cases are pending, the nurses will be free to practice in California. Until formal disciplinary charges are filed, officials cannot disclose the names of any of the nurses. But officials told the Los Angeles Times/ProPublica that they plan to file emergency petitions to suspend nurses who pose a threat to public safety.
Los Angeles Times/ProPublica found the disciplinary records for many California-licensed nurses, including the following:
- Marci Nablo admitting that she stole Fentanyl from patients' pain pumps, replaced it with saline, and injected the opioid under her tongue. She was also accused of paying a hospital janitor for urine and hiding it in her bra to pass a drug test. She surrendered her Florida nursing license in 2007. After stealing drugs in Pennsylvania, her Pennsylvania nursing license was suspended in 2008.
- Karen Vivian made nine medication errors. In one case, she put ear drops into a patient's eye. Nebraska suspended her license in 2008. A year later, she gave up her Minnesota license.
As late as 2008, California did not require nurses who were renewing their licenses to reveal whether they'd been disciplined in other states. The nursing board checked their records against the national database of disciplinary actions only upon their initial application for a state license. The board president told the Times/ProPublica that it plans to run checks of California nurses every quarter.
To learn more:
- read this Los Angeles Times/ProPublica article