150 nurses in Washington state and “about a dozen” nurses in neighboring Oregon are under investigation for illegally obtaining their nursing degrees.
On Monday, the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission announced it had identified 150 nursing applicants in Washington who “graduated” from 3 now-shuttered federally accredited nursing schools in Florida.
“The nursing commission is there to protect the public so we took this very seriously,” said Paula Meyer, the commission’s executive director.
“Nursing is the number one most trusted profession in the US and has been for many years, according to Gallup polls,” Meyer said. “People trust nurses blindly and they expect they know what they’re doing at the bedside.”
According to reports, of the 150 Washington nurses linked to the Florida schools, seven have surrendered their nursing licenses, 32 are awaiting a decision on their fates, four new applicants for licensure were denied and 30 applicants are also awaiting a final decision. Another 77 nurses remain under investigation.
The nurses were identified after the state nursing board pored over hundreds of RN and LPN applications for possible links to the three Florida schools.
Other state nursing boards are also reviewing their licensed nurses for links to the Florida nursing schools.
Meanwhile, the Oregon State Board of Nursing says about a dozen nurses in their state are currently under investigation.
Due to the ongoing investigation, officials declined to release the names and hospitals involved in the case, KOIN 6 News reported.
The FBI arrested 25 people in connection with the diploma mill that sold over 7,600 fake nursing diplomas for $15,000 each.
One of the suspects, New Jersey resident Stanton Witherspoon allegedly conspired with administrators at the now-shuttered nursing schools to sell fake diplomas and transcripts that allowed nurses to sit for the state board exam. The operation raked in over $114 million in 5 years.
The defendants are charged with wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. They could face up to 20 years in prison.
22 RNs and LPNs in Georgia were ordered to surrender their nursing licenses by mid-February, according to WSB-TV. Three of the nurses were fired from the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
The FBI is working closely with state nursing boards around the country to weed out thousands of fraudulent nurses who took shortcuts to obtain their nursing degrees.
“When we talk about a nurse’s education, and credentials, shortcut is not a word we want to use,” said Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.