California Board of Registered Nursing Seeks To Triple Number of Investigators In Response To Propublica/LATimes Expose
Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 01:35 PMIn an update to a previous entry, the The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the new management of the California is seeking to more than triple the size of their enforcement staff, and to raise licensing fees, in order to get on top of the backlog of patient complaints against nurses, who are otherwise still practicing as the charges go uninvestigated. Congratulations again to the terrific investigative reporters at the Los Angeles Times and Propublica for bringing to light the quagmire of complaints at the BRN.
Whether the Governor and the Legislature will approve this type of staff increase is unknown, but if the cost of the staff increase is paid for by raising the licensing fees paid to the State by registered nurses, perhaps it will fly. Let's hope.
The state agencies that license nursing homes/skilled nursing facilities (the California Department of Public Health) and residential care facilities for the elderly (The Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing) are, in my opinion, even more grossly understaffed and hopelessly behind in responding to complaints on behalf of nursing home residents and the elderly living in care homes and assisted living facilities. And the idea of financing staff increases by raising licesning fees on nursing homes would be a brilliant move. Let's hope that will be next on some investigative reporters' list, because without some kind of crisis, or that type of reporting, it isn't likely to happen on its own.
To read the LA Times story, click here.
California’s Broken “Diversion” Program For Registered Nurses Investigated in LA Times/Propublica Article
Saturday, July 25, 2009, 01:23 PMPropublica and The Los Angeles Times published another article today in their series of exposes on the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) – the state agency with regulatory oversight of the State’s registered nurses.
Today’s article focuses on the boondoggle “Diversion” program run by the BRN for nurses with admitted or known drug or substance abuse problems. Under diversion, nurses with substance abuse problems who are facing disciplinary allegations, or who have yet to be charged, voluntarily agree to a set of conditions, including random drug tests, drug treatment, and pledging not to work without the BRN’s permission. In exchange, the BRN, according to Propublica, “suspends the disciplinary process, keeping secret the nurses' participation in the program.” Times/Propublica reporters combed over records, documenting “participants who practiced while intoxicated, stole drugs from the bedridden and falsified records to cover their tracks.”
The problem comes with the BRN’s lack of oversight of nurses in the program – they reportedly do little to ensure that the nurse addicts in the program keep their word and don’t work, and the secrecy of the program prevents the public and potential employers of the nurses from knowing about their abuse problems. Because of the lack of oversight of diversion participants, the way the BRN finds out that a nurse has fallen off the wagon is often that the nurse picks up a new case - for example, either harms a patient or is caught stealing drugs from a hospital where he or she works -- even stealing drugs meant for a patient.
The BRN program also reportedly tolerates frequent relapses by participants. The Propublica story describes in detail the case of Melony Currier, R.N., pictured here in a 2006 mug shot, who had 5 “relapses” in the 4 years she was on diversion - including multiple incidents in which she stole drugs from clinics or hospitals. Propublica reports that, “even after the program expels nurses . . . the board takes a median 15 months to file a public accusation -- the first warning to potential employers and patients of a nurse's troubles.” Ten months more go by, on average, before the BRN imposes discipline on the errant nurse, “based on the Times/ProPublica review of disciplinary records filed since 2002.” In the case of nurse Currier, the BRN filed public charges against her some 5 ˝ years after it became aware of her drug problem. In the meantime the nurse can continue to work. The upshot in the Currier case was that the BRN suspended her license for a year, after which time she was free to return to work.
The BRN does not track the relapse rate of nurses who complete the program either.
The Propublica/Times article discusses the case of another R.N., 32 year old Chad Matheny,pictured here, who died of an accidental overdose of drugs he stole from clinics where he worked. The Time/Propublica article quotes his mother, Gaytha Minor, a veteran nurse herself as saying that “ most angers her is that the board didn't step in to protect the public – "How many patients suffered because of my son?"
To read the excellent article, click here and here.
Journalists' Expose' On California Board of Registered Nursing Shows Shocking Delays Which Harm The Public
Thursday, July 23, 2009, 06:13 PMThe Los Angeles Times and the nonprofit news organization Pro Publica published an article, July 11, 2009, regarding the shocking delays tolerated by the California in investigating patient complaints against registered nurses. The article, entitled, "When Care Givers Harm: Problem Nurses Stay On The Job As Patients Suffer", describes the result of an investigation by reporters into licensing records of every nurse – 2,000 in all – who faced disciplinary action from 2002 to 2008.
The reporters found that, “The RN board took more than three years, on average, to investigate and discipline errant nurses, according to its own statistics." Yet, in at least 6 other large states, "the process typically takes a year or less.” The articles describes how 61 nurses were accused of wrongdoing by employers before the Board got around to even filing charges against them or disciplining them.
In response to the article, Gov. Schwartznegger cleaned house at the RN Board, firing some of the RN Board members, while others resigned. . Let's hope the new people bring about a new way of doing things in taking action against bad nurses.
The article profiles some of the patients who were hurt by the nurses' misconduct, including Spencer Sullivan, 48. Spencer was rendered a paraplegic in 2001 as a result of an overdose of medication given to him by a nurse, Rose McKenzie, who did not think to question it when doctors at UC San Francisco Medical Center mistakenly wrote identical orders for Spencer's post surgery medications. The nurse gave him the double dose, and then did not check back on him, according to state licensing records. As a result of the overdose, he suffered a brain injury, rendering him quadriplegic. It took the Board until April 2008 – 6 1/2 years later – to file charges against the nurse. McKenzie did not even contest the charges, and her license was revoked.
The Propublica website describes the heartbreaking cases of other victims of nursing incompetence where the RN board took years to act on the complaints, leaving the public to be unwitting victims of these bad nurses.
The website contains an extremely useful database, The California Sanctioned Nurses Database. It contains detailed information on bad nurses by name, county, and type of misconduct, including:
1090 nurses who lost their licenses
436 nurses on probation
191 nurses with cases pending
262 nurses who have completed probation
80 nurses in other categories
You can even pull up the public accusation and disciplining documents for these nurses from the data base. I urge anyone with a case against a California nurse to check the database for a match.
Getting Expert Advice From Occupational Therapist on Safety Check of Your Home May Be Key To Aging In Place
Sunday, July 19, 2009, 10:48 AMThe New York Times ran a great article yesterday on “Senior Proofing" your home -- viz, how to make your home a safe environment, so you can age in place and avoid having to move to assisted living or nursing home. The basic thrust of the article is that Assisted Living arrangements typically run from $34,000 to $70,000 a year or more, but that for an investment of several thousand dollars you may be able to stay in your home and be safe. The article profiles Catherine Fisher of Newton New Jersey, pictured here , who was able to stay in her home even after having a bad fall, with the help of an occupational therapist who went through Catherine’s home and added safety features such as electric stair lift and grab bars and removed hazards such as slippery area rugs. The article contains references to internet resources on making your home safe, including the Home Safety Council’s site, www.mysafehome.net, the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, www.stopfalls.org www.stopfalls.org, as well as an an interactive safety checklist sponsored by the AARP.
Don't assume that assisted living or a nursing home would keep you safer than you'd be at home. In fact one of the leading types of cases brought against nursing homes have to do with safety hazards that go unchecked resulting in injury to nursing home residents.
Keep in mind that any change you make to your home can inadvertently make it safer or unsafer. My mother fell at home, breaking her hip, when she bought a new futon bed (to better support her back, we hoped)with a wide frame – she tripped on the frame edge that was jutting out when she got up one morning a few days after it arrived. We were oblivious to the safety hazard the new bed frame posed, but an occupational therapist with a geriatric focus is much more likely to catch a hazard you might miss.
Good luck in staying at home.
Sunday, June 28, 2009, 01:22 PMEverything you need to know about life, love, and helping others, you can learn from Michael Jackson. Be passionate, have fun, and reinvent yourself.
MAN IN THE MIRROR: If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.
Love: THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL, With Britney Spears, -- hot!
Love your neighbor BLACK AND WHITE
DON'T STOP TIL YOU GET ENOUGH : Go for it in whatever you do and use the force within you.
NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE Michael, I hope that with your death all the drama of the last few years will be forgiven/forgotten and people will remember what a fabulous artist you are and what an inspriration your music was.