California Is A Hotbed Of Rogue Nurses

Where can nurses go after they’ve been sanctioned elsewhere for misconduct? To California, it seems. The state’s Board of Registered Nursing launched a review, spurred on by a Los Angeles Times/Pro-Publica investigation last year, and discovered 3,500 nurses who have licenses in California even though they’ve lost their licenses in other states; 1,700 of these nurses currently have active licenses. In more than half of all cases, the sanctions were for serious violations such as “sexual abuse, neglect, rampant drug use and criminality.”

The L.A. Times listed some of the more extreme examples in yesterday’s article:

  • A Florida nurse who admitted in 2007 that she “stole the painkiller Fentanyl from patients’ pain pumps, replaced it with saline and injected the drug under her tongue.” She then moved to Pennsylvania and lost her license there in 2008 for stealing drugs.
     
  • A Nebraska nurse who has bipolar disorder and who lost her license after putting ear drops into a patient’s eye. (She’s not currently working in California, but still has a valid license to work there.)
     
  • A Tennessee nurse who lost his license in 2002 after having sex with a patient on the job. At a mental health facility.

So why does California have so many nurses who have lost their licenses elsewhere? Part of it is chronic understaffing on the nursing board. The other part has to do with money: California doesn’t participate in a national database program for nursing, because it makes about $1 million a year by keeping that info to itself and charging for access to the data.

“Hundreds of nurses have been punished by other states while maintaining California licenses” [Los Angeles Times]
“Nurses barred elsewhere still licensed in Calif” [Associated Press]