New York laws enable criminal, incompetent nurses

New York's inattention and slow response to incidents of patient harm make the state a haven for criminal and incompetent nurses, according to a report published by ProPublica.

Despite a nationwide movement to improve nurse oversight and crack down on licensee misconduct, these reforms have largely passed New York by, according to the report.

The Office of Professions, which oversees nurse licensing in the state, does not require applicant nurses to undergo background checks or submit fingerprints, allowing those with criminal records to fly under the radar, ProPublica reported. The office, a division of the Department of Education, only reluctantly wades into criminal justice matters. When the board does act, the publication reported, it is often years after patients have been neglected, sexually assaulted and even killed. 

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told WNYC that his office questions whether the Department of Education is "the right agency" to put in charge of nurse licensing, saying, "Should the state education department have the responsibility of licensing nurses, or is that too far afield for them and should the department of health do it?"

To learn more:
- read the ProPublica report
- listen to Cuomo's interview