In the world of medical ethics and fraud, possibly no single area has been under more “attack” than nursing. Not only have thousands of potential nurses been lied to, and scammed by unethical and even criminal elements as they applied to bogus schools, but a small percentage of nurses themselves have falsified their credentials and lied about their education. In some cases, it has set up fraud on top of fraud. Obviously, the real losers are the patients.
There is among the unethical a temptation to be dishonest. There has been a nursing shortage and it has been difficult to maintain staff, so an opportunity exists for fraud. There is also a certain amount of rationalization. Unethical individuals figure that once they settle into a job, and the job becomes rote, that no one will check – or care. Of course, the healthcare facility and its patients will care very much but in the minds of the unethical, even when lives are potentially at stake, conscience is not necessarily a high priority.
New Jersey Board Revokes Licenses
At the very end of 2016, the New Jersey Board of Nursing revoked the licenses of three “nurses.” To review this case of fraud, we have to bring in the “nursing school” they attended.
The school was called Ohio American Health Care or OAHC. It is out-of-business because they were cited for numerous violations of the rules and regulations that any school claiming to accredit students must have. The school wasn’t exactly a “mill,” but it was deficient in many of its educational programs. It was no secret the school was deficient, only that some of their graduates found employment “under the radar.”
At license renewal time, the three graduates had to present credentials to prove they were who they said that they were. They claimed that they were RN’s with one also licensed as an LPN. They used the credentials of the out of business, out of compliance Ohio American Health Care. That was bad enough, but the investigation by the licensing board proved a much worse scenario.
The three who claimed they were RN’s, obtained their Ohio licenses through fraudulent means. One “RN” paid $15,000 for a fake diploma and a fake transcript, another “RN” lied about her education at OAHC and her work history, and a third did not disclose that in addition to everything else, that she had been disciplined by two previous nursing employers. Apparently, her techniques her so sloppy she was written up for incompetence.
All of the “nurses” were asked to resolve the accusations of poor medical conduct, fraud, course completion and credentials. In addition, they failed to complete license renewal procedures such as continuing education.
In terms of specific charges, one “RN” falsely claimed she had completed her studies, and that her diploma and transcript was obtained by fraud. All of her licenses have been suspended and she had to pay civil penalties of $5,000. She had been practicing as an “RN” for nearly three years.
Another “RN” had been practicing for about four years. She actually graduated from the Ohio American Health Care “school” with a degree, albeit substandard. When she applied for licensure, she failed to disclose she had held jobs where she had been the subject of serious disciplinary action by two different facilities for incompetence, and that she had been removed from a third facility because she lacked a license of any kind! She faced fines of $10,000.
The third “RN,” actually a licensed LPN, told the licensing board that she had completed her RN from OAHC. When she presented the RN paperwork from OAHC she already knew that the school was under investigation. Her paperwork was also fraud. She is facing civil penalties of $2,000.
Fraud on Top of Fraud
OAHC is hardly the first institution to “take in” unsuspecting nursing students. Foreign born students have long been the victims of fraudulent licensing and education. What compounds the lack of ethics here is when the graduates of those schools knowingly (or unknowingly) apply for jobs in the field. They put everyone at risk.
There are incidents where gross negligence on the part of unlicensed or “under-licensed” providers have caused patient injury, sickness or death. For example, the fact that one of those “RN’s” who lost her license had been disciplined by two other employers for incompetence illustrates that she probably committed harm of some type.
There is the kind of fraud that affects money or property, and then there is an entirely different level where fraud can cost a life. It seems clear in this case of healthcare fraud that no ethical screen was in place for any of the “RN’s.” The burning question is a simple: ‘Why not?”
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