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New federal nurse disciplinary controls proposed in wake of Cullen case

April 16, 2004 -- An unsigned AP article in today's New York Times reports that new federal legislation has been introduced to require the reporting of disciplinary actions against nurses, apparently in response to the alleged patient killings by hospital nurse Charles Cullen, whose troubled job history apparently did not prevent him from moving from job to job. The brief piece manages to raise more questions than it answers about the bill, perhaps in part because of the space it devotes to the specifics of Cullen's case.

The bill would reportedly require that hospitals report nurse disciplinary actions to state "medical boards," and that such information also be supplied to the National Practitioner Databank, which currently tracks such information as to physicians. Hospitals would also be required to check such information before hiring nurses and would be penalized for failing to do so. The article reports that hospitals are "under no such mandate" for physicians, but does not explain why that might be. The article also does not explain why hospitals would be reporting information on nurses to state "medical" boards rather than state nursing boards; perhaps it means nursing boards. The article reports that "[n]urses, hospitals and others" who report problems would be "protected from lawsuits" under the bill, but does not explain what that means; presumably it would not mean blanket immunity from malpractice claims. The article also does not discuss whether the bill provides whistle blower protection. The article describes a Trenton news conference held by New Jersey's two United States Senators apparently to endorse the bill, but does not actually state whether those Senators are bill sponsors.

See the AP's article "Nurse Performance Database Being Proposed" in the April 16, 2004 edition of the New York Times.

December 16, 2003 -- See our news item on Charles Cullen "The nurse as "mercy killer."

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