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In Minnesota, nurses in trouble get second chances... to cause harm

October 07, 2013



by: BRANDON STAHL , Star Tribune   Updated: October 6, 2013 - 7:09 AM

State regulators say they protect the public

with a closer watch on caregivers accused of misconduct. Those who lost loved

ones want them to do more.

A police officer, summoned by a delayed emergency call, tried

resuscitating the elderly woman, with no help from the nurses. Then paramedics

took over. It was too late.Elda Bothun lay unconscious on her bed inside

Bloomington nursing home. She had stopped breathing, but the two nurses

assigned to care for her had left the room.

At 5:05 a.m., Jan. 19, 2009,

Bothun was pronounced dead.

A state investigation found a

severe breakdown in Bothun's care just before her death and determined that the

failure of nurses Elijah Mokandu and Meaza Abayneh to help her during the apparent

heart attack amounted to neglect of a vulnerable adult. Police and the city

attorney went further: They charged the nurses with criminal neglect, a rare

step in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Board of Nursing

could have taken away the licenses of Mokandu and Abayneh. Instead, it directed

them to take training classes and consult with other nurses about how to

respond to emergency situations.

The two nurses were allowed to

keep practicing.

That's the board's common

response when nurses are accused of endangering or harming patients from

serious medical errors, thefts of medication or outright neglect.

Records examined by the Star

Tribune of more than 1,000 disciplinary actions by the Nursing Board over the

past four years show that it tolerates or forgives misconduct that would end

nursing careers in other states.

The Star Tribune's

investigation found:

• The board actively licenses

more than 230 nurses since 2010 who have records of unsafe practice, including

botched care that led to patient harm or even death.

Ninety-three nurses are allowed

to practice despite having been charged or convicted of crimes such as physical

or sexual assault and drug thefts -- some against their own patients.

• The board gives nurses who

admit misconduct second, third and sometimes more chances to keep practicing.

• Getting fired for

incompetence, even multiple times, rarely means Minnesota nurses lose their


• Minnesota is one of only 10

states where the board has no restrictions on granting licenses to felons,

according to a 2012 survey of state nursing boards.

Gov. Mark Dayton called

the Star Tribune's findings "shocking," and said the Nursing Board's

actions puts patients at risk for harm.

"It would appear the board

is more interested in protecting bad nurses than the public," he said.

"Where does it come from that their job is to give subpar nurses chance

after chance after chance?"

In an interview Friday, Dayton

vowed to take "whatever action is necessary" to change how the board

views discipline, starting with filling two currently open seats with members

who will "understand these problems and insist on a very different

approach.  [READ



When Caregivers Harm:  America's

Unwatched Nurses

A ProPublica Investigation

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