Today’s Tennessean has an article originally published in the Los Angeles Times that reveals a problem with nurses moving from state to state and leaving behind a bad disciplinary record.
The article reports that "using public databases and state disciplinary reports, reporters found hundreds of cases in which registered nurses held clear licenses in some states after they had been sanctioned in others, often for serious misdeeds. In California alone, a months-long review of its 350,000 active nurses found at least 177 whose licenses had been revoked, surrendered, suspended or denied elsewhere."
This problem can be avoided. "By simply typing a nurse’s name into a national database, state officials can often find out within seconds whether the nurse has been sanctioned anywhere in the country and why. But some states don’t check regularly or at all."
The article was written by reporters who work for ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Here is the story on ProPublica’s website. This is the second story this organization has written about the nursing profession. The Los Angeles Times and ProPublica have also reported that "the California Board of Registered Nursing took more than three years, on average, to investigate and discipline errant nurses. It failed to act against nurses whose misconduct already had been thoroughly documented and sanctioned by others. And the board gave probation to hundreds of nurses – ordering monitoring and work restrictions – then failed to crack down as many landed in trouble again and again."
There is no reason why this should occur. States should adopt policies that require checks of available resources to determine whether a nurse – or any other professional – has a disciplinary history that would impact the professional’s ability to be licensed in the state. The failure to do so increases the risk that a citizen will be harmed.