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The California Board of Registered Nursing is charged with the task of overseeing more than 350,000 registered nurses. Their utmost responsibility is to investigate allegations of misconduct and protect the public from unfit or dangerous nurses. Sadly, the volume of complaints each and every year forces a backup within the system, often leaving problem nurses on the floor for years before any disciplinary action is taken.
Reporters in California closely examined every nurse who faced disciplinary action from the board between 2002 to 2008 to determine how long it took for the board to take action, what action was taken and how it impacted the nurse. The reporters interviewed more than 2,000 nurses, as well as their patients, families and coworkers. They found that it took, on average, three years or more for the board to investigate and discipline nurses. Most other large states take only a year, making this delay a real concern among California residents.
One nurse, Owen Jay Murphy Jr., spent years at Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center tormenting patients and coworkers. On one occasion, he twisted the jaw of a patient until he screamed. In another, he picked up an elderly, frail man by the shoulders and slammed him against a mattress, ordering him to remain in bed. He ignored vital-sign monitors in the emergency room and shouted at fellow nurses. His coworkers were afraid of him. By May of 2005, Murphy resigned from Kaiser. The hospital promptly informed the California Board of Registered Nursing that Murphy was a danger to patients. Despite this warning, Murphy was permitted to find nursing jobs elsewhere. Nothing on his record showed his misconduct, and nothing warned patients of his aggression. Over the next two years, Murphy was convicted of two separate instances of assault and battery against a patient. These two terrible incidents might have been prevented by quicker and more efficient action by the board.