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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. TheFinalBoomer says:

    Wow. My sister in law is a nurse in San Fran, I wonder if she knows about this stuff. Pretty scary.

  2. blogger X says:

    It seems California doesn’t quite understand why everyone is so serious about nurses with checkered pasts…

  3. sleze69 says:

    I shoulda been a California nurse…

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I’m guessing California isn’t very strict when it comes to taking away nursing licenses. I’d like to see some numbers comparing them to other states. If it’s unknowingly taking in criminal nurses who have been deauthorized in other states, it’s hard to imagine that California is very good at investigating, prosecuting, or deauthorizing the nurses that didn’t move in from a different state.

  5. Mr. Stupid says:

    awesome picture that accompanies the article. well played!

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Well there’s your answer. He went to a rogue nurse to get those wounds dressed.

  6. AstroPig7 says:

    If this level of ignorance is typical for other state-funded programmes, then I’m not surprised that their budget is in the crapper.

  7. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Really? Just a million? I would think the class action lawsuit this article will generate will obliterate that “profit”.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Yeah, this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. A million bucks is a lot of money, but it seems to be penny wise and pound foolish.

      To put it in perspective, state spending was $131 billion in 2008 – or 131,000 times the amount California made from this.

  8. nbs2 says:

    And we’re taking vehicle emissions advice from these guys?

  9. gjones77 says:

    They’re only doing the work legally eligible nurses won’t do…

  10. jessjj347 says:

    “As a result of the investigation, the board is proposing to replace its databases”

    Isn’t the point that they should be sharing their data instead of creating more proprietary systems?

  11. scoccaro says:

    What does Bipolar have to do with negligence?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Here are the full details from the article:

      “Karen Vivian, whose license was suspended by Nebraska in 2008 after she made nine medication errors, including putting ear drops into a patient’s eye. A mental health exam found that she had bipolar disorder that “made her vulnerable in the work environment,” board records said. A year later, she also surrendered her Minnesota license.”

      Basically, the exam revealed the condition and her license was revoked because of her mistakes. I don’t know whether the governing bodies have provisions for whether nurses who are using bipolar medication can still be licensed nurses in a hospital environment (where it’s much more stressful than a private practice) as long as they check in with a health professional to ensure they are taking their medication properly and on time. I can imagine that if you are bipolar, a hospital environment would make it much worse.

      • scoccaro says:

        Anybody can make mistakes though. There are so many myths about bipolar… she wasn’t in the middle of the street injecting strangers with dirty needles because she has bipolar disorder… she was just a bad nurse who made a lot of mistakes.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Which is why I said that her license was revoked because of her mistakes, not exclusively because she was bipolar.

      • woahmelly says:

        At the time of application for a license, some BONs ask you to voluntarily disclose if you have been diagnosed with varying psychiatric disorders ranging from depression to pedophilia. I don’t think any state actually makes it an involuntary disclosure required via law.

    • Anri says:

      Would it really be legal to force someone to lose their profession or regularly see a doctor *and* take whatever medicine they’re prescribed?

  12. ghostfire says:

    Was the bipolar nurse unmedicated? I don’t know much about nursing – are you not allowed to keep your license, whether it’s controlled or not? The ear/eye drop thing, while certainly serious, sounds like it could have been the kind of medication mixup that happens with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists all the time. That one doesn’t sound in the same league as stealing drugs and sex with mental patients.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The article reads that she made nine medication errors, so it’s very possible that putting ear drops in a patient’s eyes was the least egregious mistake she made. It’s also very possible that the nurse wasn’t aware she was bipolar, but it would have been absolutely irresponsible to continue letting her treat patients while she was working out her own medical situation.

    • Anri says:

      You cannot lose a professional license for being diagnosed with a disease.

  13. Boberto says:

    California has a large volume of out of state registered RN’s who had originally been initially licensed in another state. Most don’t live in California anymore.

    The reason for this, is because California had suffered severe RN shortages, and many RN’s ended up there from other states (lured by BIG dollars) to work as fly-in nurses, when shortages were most acute. Most worked a month or two in California, went back their home state, and never came back to California.

    The days of big money as a California travel nurse, are pretty much over now.

    When these RN’s go back to their home states, some get into trouble.

    Whenever an RN in ANY state, has ANY criminal issues, it is the responsibility of the RN to report that issue to the Boards of Nursing in every state of licensure. Could be a DWI, or a domestic violence charge. Anything.

    If the RN does not report this to the state board, they often will find out about it during the renewal of the licensee, but wouldn’t necessarily check within a valid registration period.

  14. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Oh, you haven’t lived until you’ve had wild sex with a mental patient.

    • simpleton says:

      Its just innovative treatment I really dont know what the big deal is. S/He was too crazy to get some and that made them crazier. Someone had to break the cycle. I saw cudos to the nurse who laid it down for their duty!!!

  15. Talisker says:

    I dated a nurse once. “Sexual abuse, neglect, rampant drug use and criminality” pretty much describes the relationship to a “t”.

    • PencilSharp says:

      Knew this thread would turn from “Rogue Nurses” to “Naughty Nurses” eventually…

    • hansolo247 says:

      Same here, but I can’t say there was any kind of abuse.

      Neglect, drug use, and criminality were all there, though.

  16. Liam Kinkaid says:

    “A Tennessee nurse who lost his license in 2002 after having sex with a patient on the job. At a mental health facility.”

    Was his name Buck? If so, I think I’ve seen that one. Also, Darryl Hannah as hot nurse with an eyepatch is hot.

  17. Veeber says:

    They do the same thing for pharmacist licensing. You can take a test to get licensed almost everywhere except in California and New York. They want to be special.

  18. Cantras says:

    Friend of mine works at a nuthouse in california. They do have a safety video they all have to watch about not sleeping with the patients, but she says it happens more than you’d think, especially with newer nurses, especially if they don’t have a psych background. It’s a maximum security-type hospital, half these guys are sociopaths, they get to watch emotions with an outsider’s perspective, and become excellent at seduction.

  19. smo0 says:

    I have heard HORROR stories from my mother about the nurses she’s worked with. I’m surprised to see Nevada isn’t mentioned here… (maybe things have changed in the last 10 years)
    Yes, this is a major issue… but it doesn’t hold a candle to where many nurses are “imported” from.
    My mother is a respiratory therapist (or she was a decade ago, now she does sleep studies in labs) and she’s often come home from work telling me about this nursing home she worked for here in Las Vegas, 90% of the nurses were Pilipino and almost none spoke english – even when they had to discuss “patient” things with her. She said often times alarms would go off – ignored, medications weren’t delivered on time and the general lack of care given to the patients was too unbearable for her.
    Towards the end of her “stay” there, she found some printed out emails from one of the corporate offices with the initiative to “import” nurses from other countries.
    Her beef with the industry, and has been for quite some time, is where these nurses are from – yeah there’s a major shortage – but the laws have changes and even what’s required to be a nurse has changed. All you see for Americans now are these “technical” schools who basically teach you how to fill out paperwork.

  20. mythago says:

    The question is, who is going to go to Sacramento to allocate money for the nursing board? Which interest group is going to be pounding on legislators to say “yo, we need to supervise nurses better and by the way, we should stop charging for access to that database and get on the national system”? Probably not the nurses’ union. Probably not some vague ‘patient advocate’ group. This only gets attention when there is enough bad publicity that they MIGHT do something about it.

    As an aside, I don’t know why more states do not make disciplinary records of doctors and nurses public. In Cailfornia, you can look up any lawyer and their entire disciplinary history (which now includes complaints filed, even if not upheld) on a public website – no reason physicians should be any more protected.

  21. EtherealFlame says:

    Sweet Holy Moly. I start my RN classes in Cali in a few months! Good to know who I will be working with.