Temporary Nursing Agencies Magnet for Problem Nurses

In their ongoing investigation into California nursing, Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein of ProPublica are out with an article on temporary nursing agencies being a haven for unfit nurses. Temp nursing agencies are used frequently by local hospitals and nursing homes to fill nursing positions that have been vacated for some reason; usually for day or two, but sometimes open-ended.

In its investigation, ProPublica found numerous instances in which the agencies, desperate to find certified nurses, failed to perform background checks or ignored warnings from hospitals about weak nurses in order to fill nursing orders. It is a profitable undertaking; the temporary nursing industry is a $4 billion industry.

Some of the other ProPublica findings were startling:

– Temp firms hired nurses who had criminal records or left states where their licenses had been restricted or revoked. At least temporary nursing agencies employed a nurse in California whose license had been suspended in Minnesota for stealing drugs at a string of temp jobs. One used him after he’d been convicted of doing the same thing at a Santa Rosa nursing home.

– Nursing agencies shuffled errant nurses from one hospital to another, even as complaints mounted. A Culver City agency continued sending one nurse to hospitals despite more than a dozen warnings that she was ignoring her patients and sleeping on the job. Before she was hired, the nurse had been convicted of 12 crimes, including prostitution, carrying a concealed weapon and possessing cocaine.

– Nurses who got in trouble at one agency had no problem landing a job at another. An Oklahoma nurse cycled through at least four Southern California agencies in a year, accused of pilfering drugs while at each.

Sadly, there are a ton of temporary nurses out their practicing nursing in local hospitals and nursing homes. We see it all the time in our nursing home abuse and neglect law practice. In fact, we’ve had cases against nursing homes that only used temp labor. According to the report, almost 6% of registered nurses in California (approximately 19,300) are temporary nurses.

Here’s a scary example: Nurse Beverley Cathey had trouble in her home state of North Carolina. She decided to move to California in July 2007 for better nursing opportunities. She applied for a job at EZ Staffing in Glendale, told them she had experience in critical care, and the next day she was working at Huntington Memorial Hospital. After a series of nursing mistakes – she had six complaints against her by the end of August – EZ Staffing to check her nursing license in North Carolina. It turns out she was on probation.

Read the full L.A. Times article here for more scary examples.

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Walton Law Firm LLP provide free consultations to individuals and families who believe a loved one has been abuse or neglected in the nursing home or assisted living setting. Cases are accepted in all Southern California counties.