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Minnesota nurse licensing crackdown: what about employees' rights?

A recent investigative series in the Star Tribune has shaken up the Minnesota Board of Nursing and nurses around the state. The investigation discovered some 294 licensed nursing professionals who were listed in the Minnesota Court Information System, or MNCIS, as having misdemeanor convictions that apparently disqualify them from licensure. That investigation prompted a joint hearing before the Minnesota House and Senate health and human services committees, scheduled for Nov. 13.

The inspector general of the Minnesota Department of Human Services explained that the agency has relied on the records of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, not MNCIS, when performing the newly-required background checks on applicants for nursing licenses. BCA records do not include misdemeanor convictions for fraud, theft, drug violations or minor assault which, according to the Nursing Board, can disqualify nurses from direct care, or from licensure altogether, for between 7 to 15 years.

He also said that the agency has relied upon employers, probation officers or the nurses themselves to report any new offenses. "We know that our current system of notifying us is not adequate," he told the Star Tribune.

Perhaps under pressure, the Minnesota Board of Nursing reviewed those cases and just announced that it plans to bar 107 nurses from providing direct patient care.

The names of those nurses were not released to the media, but if you are a licensed nursing professional with a misdemeanor conviction, however long ago, you should be concerned. You may receive a letter of investigation from the Minnesota Board of Nursing outlining allegations against you and asking for your response, either in writing or at a conference.

If you should ever receive such a letter, you should seriously consider contacting an attorney. You should be aware that in this situation, public and legislative scrutiny may pressure the board into obtaining a satisfying number of license suspensions and revocations to report, with little regard for individual nurses' rights.

Even if you don't receive a letter of investigation, be aware that the new law requires the board to begin, perhaps as early as 2017, checking the backgrounds of all nurses providing active care. If you have any concern that a past legal issue or a current one, such as drug addiction, please know that attorney consultations are absolutely confidential. Don't sit and worry about your license: get the answers you need.

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