Texas nurses are receiving investigation notices from the Texas Board of Nursing, their Texas nursing employer, or their nursing school, alleging that their nursing education could be fraudulent. The notices relate to a fraud scandal involving several now-closed Florida nursing schools. The Texas Board of Nursing has even published the names online of nearly two dozen nurses whom it alleges obtained fraudulent credentials.
The Texas Board of Nursing explains online that it "is working, diligently, with all appropriate nursing regulatory bodies, nursing education program providers, accreditation bodies and authorities to detect, investigate and resolve these matters as quickly as possible, including seeking revocation of any licensure obtained through fraudulent means."
If you are a Texas nurse who has received or anticipates such a notice, promptly retain national professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team for your most effective defense representation. The alleged fraud scandal can place your nursing license, employment, and education at risk. Skilled and experienced professional license defense attorney representation is your best answer to address your nursing license issues. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now.
Fraud Allegations Involving Florida Nursing Schools
The Department of Health & Human Services obtained criminal fraud charges against officials of several Florida nursing schools. The charges allege that the school sold fake associate's degrees and transcripts to thousands of aspiring nurses. Many of those individuals were immigrants.
Some of those aspiring nurses used the suspect credentials to earn nursing degrees from schools in Texas and elsewhere. Nursing program graduates also used credentials from the suspect Florida schools to qualify for the NCLEX for a Texas nursing license and nursing jobs with Texas employers. If you are a Texas nurse with credentials from one of these involved Florida nursing schools, your nursing degree, nursing license, and employment is at risk:
- Sacred Heart International Institute,
- Quisqueya Health Care Academy,
- Quisqueya School of Nursing also known as Sunshine Academy,
- Sienna College,
- Palm Beach School of Nursing, and
- MedLife Institute West Palm Beach.
Texas Board of Nursing Investigations
If you haven't yet received the Texas Board of Nursing's notice that your license is at risk because of your credentials from one of the suspect Florida schools, you should expect that notice soon. The Board's website specifically warns about the ongoing investigations around the so-called “Operation Nightingale” Florida nursing schools fraud scandal.
The Board is also asking nurse employers and the public to share suspicions with the Board. While the Board's website indicates it has already filed formal charges against nearly two dozen nurses relating to this matter, expect more charges to follow. And beware that the Board may pursue actions against nurses holding credentials from other schools beyond the six Florida nursing schools. The Board further warns that "federal authorities have indicated that there may be similar, but undiscovered schemes, for selling fraudulent nursing degrees, given the current nursing shortage and high demand for nurses."
Texas's Nursing Practice Act authorizes the Texas Board of Nursing not only to license nurses for practice in the state but also to suspend and revoke licenses. Section 301.452 of the Texas Nursing Practice Act specifically authorizes the Board to discipline nurses for “fraud or deceit in procuring or attempting to procure a license to practice professional nursing or vocational nursing.”
Texas Nursing Employers Respond
Nursing program directors at Texas hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers are pursuing their own investigations of nurses holding credentials from the suspect Florida nursing schools. Employers should be cautious in doing so. The Texas Board of Nursing warns employers against taking action against any nurse simply because the nurse attended one of the six Florida nursing schools, posting:
[S]ome nurses who attended these schools did complete the required course work and clinical instruction and graduated with legitimate degrees and are not implicated in the fraudulent diploma/transcript scheme. While the warning signs below may be helpful in identifying potentially fraudulent activity, keep in mind that an individual who has attended one of these schools is not necessarily part of the fraudulent diploma/transcript scheme.
But beware that your Texas nursing employer may nonetheless suspend or terminate your employment simply because your credentials include a suspect school. Or your employer may demand that you prove your clinical hours and other education at your Florida school.
Some employers are also notifying the state board about nurses holding suspect credentials, which the board encourages employers to do through an online complaint form. Indeed, the Texas Board of Nursing specifically warns employers to watch for the following warning signs "potentially indicative of fraudulent behavior," even though some of these factors may be entirely innocent and to consider a nurse's foreign country of origin could be racially discriminatory:
If the licensee has a country of origin other than the United States, the year the licensee immigrated to the United States may be significant. Some fraudulent transcripts reflect dates of attendance while the licensee was still living in the licensee's country of origin.
The date of the licensee's graduation is important. Some of the fraudulent schools were in ‘teach out' status and were not permitted to enroll new students beyond specified dates.
None of the listed schools were authorized to offer a bridge program; however, many licensees stated that hours worked at the LVN level would count toward the clinical requirements for an RN degree.
Many of the licensees involved in the fraudulent scheme failed one nursing program prior to attending another school; a review of the nursing programs attended previously might be necessary to determine if transfer credits were legitimate.
The location of the clinical instruction may be significant. Many licensees claimed that clinical instruction occurred in Texas when the Board had not approved such clinical instruction in Texas by an out of state program.
A large gap in time between a licensee's date of graduation and the date the licensee passed the NCLEX examination may be significant.
Retain a Qualified License Defense Attorney
Premier professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team are available to represent you in Texas, responding to state board, employer, or school notices. Attorney Lento's team has helped hundreds of professionals in Texas and nationwide with nursing license issues and other professional issues. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now.