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Licensing Loophole Allows Convicted Criminals to Become Nurses in Minnesota

Minnesota is one of fourteen states in the U.S. currently not requiring background checks for licensed nurses. Due to a simple yes or no question asking applicants if they have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor charges, a loophole exists allowing convicted criminals to become a licensed nurse if they lie on their application. In Minnesota alone, 50,000 people per year must self-disclose any convictions in order to get or renew their nursing license. According to Shirley Brekken, executive director of Minnesota’s state Nursing Board, the Board does not conduct a separate background check to verify whether or not license applicants are answering truthfully. When asked to gauge an estimate of how many applicants may be lying on their applications, Brekken replied she would “only speculate about that.” Brekken says that the nursing board does not have the resources to conduct criminal checks.

Investigators at Fox 9 in Minneapolis-St. Paul have uncovered several cases of nurses with criminal records working throughout Minnesota. When hospital nurse Jessica Baird went to renew her nursing license in 2011, she answered “no” to the convictions question, despite past convictions for a DWI and disorderly conduct. She was also under an active police investigation for stealing painkillers from a patient. The stolen pills were discovered after causing a car accident in which she and another driver were injured. The nursing board was not alerted until Baird pled guilty to the drug theft and related DWI and careless driving charges in April, after which the board suspended her license for 18 months. In another case, a licensed practical nurse working at an assisted living home in Minneapolis also lied on his renewal application. Nurse Bert Sieler had previous convictions for DWI and driving after revocation, before ending up in federal court for stealing over 400 Percocet pills from two residents in his care. Sieler pled guilty to the theft and for selling the pills, and the nursing board pulled his license once they were alerted to his crimes.

Although a crimal history found through a background check does not necessarily bar someone from obtaining a nursing license, it does alert regulators to take a closer look to ensure that person can be trusted as a care giver. The state of Kansas started conducting FBI fingerprint checks on nursing hopefuls in 2008 after it was discovered that a prison escapee stole a nurse’s identity and obtained a nursing license. Even after implementation of the criminal record checks, the Kansas Nursing Board still found a large number of applicants lying about their past. “Twenty-nine percent had a criminal history that was not disclosed on their initial application,” said nursing board director Mary Blubaugh.

Don’t make the same mistake as the Minnesota nursing board by relying only on self-disclosure instead of using a background check. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide, www.nowcheckingu.com provides several options for instant and affordable results. The Tier II criminal record search also includes sex offender information from 49 states (plus Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico) with photos. Or try their National Wants and Warrants search. This search will give results within one to two days, and is a nationwide search of local, county, state, and Federal extraditable warrants, and may include misdemeanors or felonies. Most law enforcement agencies contribute to this database. Why leave it to chance? Find out what potential employees may be hiding with www.nowcheckingu.com

 

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