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Old 01-02-2010, 08:23 AM
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Default Dozens of criminal RNs identified by California regulators

Using newly required fingerprint screening, the state found registered nurses who had been convicted of murder, sex offenses, robbery and assault.

By Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein
December 26, 2009

Dozens of registered nurses who have been convicted of serious crimes including murder, sex offenses, robbery and assault have been identified by California regulators reviewing newly required fingerprints from tens of thousands of caregivers.

The state Board of Registered Nursing expanded its review of nurses' criminal records after an October 2008 story by The Times and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica found that regulators often didn't know about nurses' convictions and didn't act quickly once they learned of them.

At the time, 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, 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.

The board closed its investigation into one murder conviction without taking disciplinary action. The nurse had been convicted of second-degree murder in 1974 after shooting his sister's abusive boyfriend four times, according to board records. He was initially denied a license. But the board granted him one in 1987, finding him sufficiently rehabilitated, and placed him on three years' probation, which he completed successfully.

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 board has taken disciplinary action against only one of the convicted licensees. David Trower's license was suspended on an emergency basis after the board learned that he had been convicted four times of drunken driving between 1996 and 2008. An accusation to permanently revoke or restrict his license is pending.

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.

Nurse Haydee Parungao, for example, was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison after admitting in 2006 that she had bilked Medicare out of more than $3 million. The board filed a formal accusation against her three years later. The case is pending, but her license expired in November 2008.

Other examples included an Orange County nurse who continued to renew his license for years even after he was imprisoned for attempted murder and a Redding nurse who racked up 14 convictions over a decade before the board caught up with her.

The charges included driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and possession of a controlled substance.

Not all nurses convicted of crimes automatically lose their licenses.

Background checks

In 1990, the board began requiring nurses applying for licenses to provide their fingerprints -- the first nursing board in the country to do so. But nurses who already had their licenses at that time were not required to submit prints. That group now numbers 138,500.

As of Dec. 16, nearly 64,000 nurses in that group had submitted prints. More than 400 nurses' licenses have been put on hold because they haven't complied with the new rule. The rest have not yet renewed their licenses.

The background checks are part of the board's continuing overhaul of its operations following reports by ProPublica and The Times about lengthy delays in investigating and disciplining nurses accused of wrongdoing.

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.

Effort expanded

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.

Boards overseeing these workers are at various stages of collecting fingerprints.

Riches said the process has been challenging for the nursing board, which is whittling away at a backlog and was forced to upgrade its databases to avoid entering every report manually.

"With every large group of people, you're going to get a broad spectrum of behavior," he said. "The priority for us is dealing with it."

Weber and Ornstein are senior reporters at ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative reporting news organization in New York.

Copyright ? 2010, The Los Angeles Times
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Old 01-02-2010, 10:11 AM
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Ahhhh, so THAT'S why the rules were changed! I knew they wanted to check the records of older nurses but I didn't know why.
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Old 01-02-2010, 10:32 AM
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the murders made me nervous. not sure i blame the brother who shot his sisters abusive boyfriend. Also the vehicular murder may not be the persons fault. for all we know the person walked out into the road or something. but i think that in general it is a VERY good idea. I would not want a nurse who had commited murder, sexual offence, or abuse of someone taking care of me.
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Old 01-02-2010, 10:43 AM
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Meg, vehicular homicide occurs the minute the driver flees the scene, even if the accident is not the driver's fault.
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Old 01-02-2010, 11:03 AM
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ok, i wasnt exactly sure what it meant thanks for explaining it.
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Old 01-02-2010, 11:17 AM
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I think it is good that they started making all nurses submit fingerprints for background checks. Scared at the thought of what they found to know that a love one could be taken care of by a convicted murderer.
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Old 01-02-2010, 11:27 AM
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My Aunt was just asking me how her ex's sister can still be an RN working at a local hospital if she has had hed multiple drug related charges, a domestic violence charge and her kids were taken away ( am guessing as a result of these charges). I told her its because all these things have fallen withing her first 2 years of getting licensed and that on her renewal they will ask her is she have had any charges during the period, if she lies and they find out she could have lic. revoked permanetly. And if she tell the truth she could have it suspended or revoked.


Working in the field I do even though I have to be finger printed when I took boards. I still had to get another live scan done as part of the hiring process, as does all of people that work with the organization. There have been 2 people that I know of that after working with us, 1 for nearly 2 years, that a report, of some kind, from the state was sent to HR letting them know that there was a domestic violence charge pending for one person and an abuse of some kind pending for abother.

While both these staff worked well with the clients I understand why they cannot hold jobs working in human services.
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Old 01-02-2010, 11:59 AM
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What's unusual, Trace, is that CA is now asking older nurses (by older I mean licensed before 1990) to submit prints. Until now anyone licensed before that was grandfathered.
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Old 01-02-2010, 03:36 PM
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I had to get fingerprinted at the county sheriff's dept before I could apply to take the NCLEX. This year the BON required copies of the last 3 years work evaluations to make sure those who are renewing their licenses are indeed working and not lying that they've been working. I think after 5 years (?) of not working you have to take refresher courses or lose your license.
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Old 01-03-2010, 06:21 PM
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I have never been asked to be fingerprinted that I can recall. I think it's a very good idea though. I'm sure each case is evaluated on an individual basis.
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