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Lawmakers Worry Over Background Check Gap With Hiring Nurses

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Some Minnesota legislators met on Friday to determine if there’s a gap in the system when it comes to nurses and background checks.

It’s a gap that’s preventing employers from finding out if a nurse has a criminal history.

State lawmakers launched the investigation after a series of reports scrutinizing the Minnesota Nursing Board and its handling of nurses accused of misconduct.

Families have shared stories of nurses hired for in-home care with criminal pasts, and they feel those nurses endangered their loved ones.

A joint committee of state senators and representatives is trying to determine a few things, because in some cases, nurses with drug addictions have stolen prescription medication from patients.

State senator Kathy Sheran is head of the Senate Committee that oversees licensing boards.

“What is it in our policy that makes it difficult for the public to understand the background of nurses they are hiring to provide care for vulnerable adults or children,” she said.

She said it’s time to get to the bottom of the problem.

“It may be that we’ve established a great deal of data practices law that makes it impossible for the board of nursing to communicate information, or for the department of human services to do so. I’m uncertain. That’s what the hearing is about, to ask those questions,” she said.

Shirley Brekken is the executive director of the Minnesota Nursing Board.

“Our analysis showed that in 2012, 2010 and 2009, Minnesota had a greater percentage of suspension and revocations per RN licenses than New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Brekken said.

Sheran agrees that the review process here is stronger than it is in most other states.

“We have a great deal to be proud of in our licensing and background check for reviewing licenses, but that doesn’t mean that there are not gaping wounds we need to make visible, and understand what it is we can do to improve that system,” she said.

Minnesota has more than 116,000 licensed nurses. Last year there were 76 suspensions, and three licenses were revoked.

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