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Bad Nurses Allowed to Keep Working

The USA Today recently reported on a loophole in the regulatory system of many states that allows nurses convicted of a variety of negligent, abusive, and illegal behavior to continue working long after their conduct is discovered.

The loophole is created by the compact that currently exists between 24 states throughout the country. This ten-year old agreement is intended to allow nurses to move and work in critical areas across the country in need of their skills. Any nurse with a license in one member state is allowed to travel and work in any other.

However, there is no central licensing authority between the 24 states. In that way, the supervision and policing efforts of the entire compact is left to each individual state. Member states simply agree to let in any other member-state nurse without checking their history. That means that nurses with any number of negligent and abusive past actions, like forgotting to report changes in condition, missing tests, and stealing medication and other errors are able to skip out on the consequences and continue practicing nursing by moving to another member state.

Genell Lee, head of Alabama’s nursing board (a non-compact state) suggested that the compact allows one state’s accountability errors to be compounded, harming patients across the country. Records reveal that very few visiting nurses are ever disciplined by other states, with three states reporting only thee such citations in the last decade.

A California study highlights the problem. Officials in that state discovered that 3,500 nurses in the state had disciplinary actions in other states but had retained clean records in California. Current nurse Danya Hickman is an example of the problem. Ms. Hickman moved to California after her Texas license was revoked for giving a patient undiluted vitamin K too quickly, resulting in the patient’s death. She worked for several months in California and currently is a critical-care nurse in Iowa.

The investigation revealed countless other examples of bad nurses allowed to continue to practice in other states, placing patients across the country at risk for medical error. Alma Rice, for example, was able to work in several states for over seven years even after being found a threat to patients. Ultimately she was able to steal drugs from three different hospitals in three different states, collecting felony convictions in each state, before finally being stopped.

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti share all medical patients concern about the quality of the care they are provided at hospitals across the country. Medical care is only as good as the individuals who provide it. Unless states adequately monitor the records of those making critical medical decisions, patients will continue to suffer the harm of negligent medical care that could have been prevented.

Click Here to read more about the investigation into bad nurses.