Dayton questions actions of nursing board over disciplinary practices

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Gov. Mark Dayton is accusing the Minnesota Board of Nursing of being "asleep at the switch" in response to concerns over a report about the board's disciplinary practices regarding nurses with criminal pasts, the Star Tribune reports.

The Star Tribune earlier this month reported that up to 107 nurses with criminal histories were being barred from providing direct care by the state Department of Human Services. Action was being taken by the agency after the paper provided the DHS names of 294 actively licensed nurses convicted of criminal offenses.

The paper said the nursing board does not currently check the criminal histories of nurses. Instead, they must rely on applicants disclosing information of previous offenses when seeking a license.

Of the 294 nurses on list the Star Tribune provided to the DHS, the board took action against 31 of them.

According to Monday's Star Tribune report, Dayton said he heard from "a couple" of outstate Minnesota board members who feel they are not qualified enough to question the board's staff when it comes to reviewing discipline cases of nurses accused of criminal misconduct.

In a hearing with board staff members and legislators last week, Dayton said the "board was saying they have no training and the staff said they have no authority."

Dayton says he'll wait on any sort of action until after he meets with the board and gets the results of an investigation into the agency by Legislative Auditor James Nobles.

The Star Tribune report isn't the first time the nursing board has come under scrutiny by the media.

In a May 2012 investigation, FOX 9 found that the board didn't do separate background checks to verify if prospective nurses were telling the truth during the application process.

The executive director of the Nursing Board told the station they relied on self-disclosure by applicants when answering the question, “Have you ever been convicted, entered a plea of guilty, nolo contendere, or no contest, for any felony, gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor offense?”

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