The News-Leader is a paper that serves the outer-suburban parts of Virginia in Staunton. A headline appeared in that paper’s Dec. 6, 2014 edition, Without background checks, nurses’ problems stay hidden. The story noted how
[a]s a first-time drug offender, Tammy Giza pleaded guilty to possessing controlled substances in Montgomery County[, Virginia] and worked off her sentence on probation. Had she been applying for a Virginia nursing license — instead of already having one — Giza could keep her conviction a secret, because the commonwealth doesn’t run criminal background checks on nurse applicants.[A story devoted to Ms. Giza’s criminal history is here, including how Ms. Giza “had been stealing drugs while temping for Progressive Nursing Staffers. Assigned to Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg[, Virginia, and how she] Giza was found to have reported 585 fake work hours worth $22,088, according to state records.” Her troubles began when she started nursing at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.]
Twenty-four states, including Virginia, belong to the Nursing Licensure Compact that lets nurses practice across state lines without having to re-apply for a license. Traveling nurses with criminal or substance-abuse baggage are more likely to fly under the radar.
Another example is that of
[A story devoted to Ms. Handakas’ criminal history is here, including how Virginia did not know that Handakas’ cocaine addiction in Maryland made her, according to the state, “unsafe to practice professional nursing”].
Alexandra Handakas. [She] made a living between several states and wound up working with dialysis patients in Richmond. What her employer and the commonwealth apparently didn’t know was that the nurse had surrendered her license in Maryland because of a cocaine habit and allegations she stole narcotics there.
Jay Douglas is the executive director of the Virginia Board of Nursing. The article says that
One of the barriers to having more states join the compact is that not all states do pre-licensure criminal background checks, Douglas said. ‘We are one of those states.’
Ohio’s nursing board declined to join the compact for that reason.
‘The Board continues to believe the potential risks of harm to the public outweigh the potential benefits,’ Ohio’s nursing board said in a statement reissued this year.
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More