Dozens of criminal nurses identified in California

11:04, December 27, 2009      

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California regulators have identified dozens of registered nurses who have been convicted of serious crimes including murder, sex offenses, robbery and assault, it was reported on Saturday.

The regulators made the move following complaints that they often didn't know about nurses' convictions and didn't act quickly once they learned of them, the Los Angeles Times said.

Using newly required fingerprint screening, the state Board of Registered Nursing expanded its review of nurses' criminal records, according to the paper.

The fingerprinting effort is being expanded to include all licensed health professionals in the state.

Until now each of the state's health regulatory agencies set its own rules about who had to submit prints. Close to a third of the state's 937,100 licensed healthcare workers had not been screened as of December 2008. Even within the state, the rules were inconsistent for different groups of health professionals.

Nurses who had received licenses before 1990 were exempt from providing fingerprints, which are used to flag arrests for regulators. Since March, the board has required those nurses to submit their fingerprints.

Most of the crimes turned up are misdemeanors, such as driving under the influence of liquor, petty theft or fraud. But the records as of November also included two murders, two solicitations for murder, an attempted murder, a manslaughter and a vehicular homicide. There also were 19 convictions for assault, including five felonies, and 39 for sex offenses, three of them felonies.

The nursing board has referred at least 13 cases to the attorney general to start disciplinary proceedings against the nurses involved. Regulators won't release the names or details of any nurses' crimes unless public accusations are filed.

Of the 1,900 conviction reports sent to the board, about 1,300 have been closed without action because of the crime's age or nature. The remaining ones await further investigation.

The Times and ProPublica's review last year found more than 115 cases in which the state did not seek to discipline nurses until they had racked up three or more criminal convictions. It also turned up cases in which nurses with felony records continued to have spotless licenses -- sometimes while behind bars.

A review last year by The Times and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica found more than 115 cases in which the state did not seek to discipline nurses until they had racked up three or more criminal convictions. It also turned up cases in which nurses with felony records continued to have spotless licenses -- sometimes while behind bars.

The newly discovered convictions are "opportunities to do our job that we wouldn't have had," said Paul Riches, deputy director for enforcement and compliance at the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees all health licensing boards. It's been "a very positive thing," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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