The dangers of fake nursing licenses

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By Jacob Pegan
March 7, 2023

Cabrini's nursing program white coat ceremony from April, 2022. Photo from Cabrini Flickr.
Cabrini's nursing program white coat ceremony from April, 2022. Photo from Cabrini Flickr.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or hospital, how can you be sure they are being cared for by an officially registered nurse? A recent scandal adds doubt to many families’ sense of safety.  

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the United States Department of Justice released information about a fraudulent nursing diploma scheme that charged 25 individuals for “alleged participation in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses.” This investigation was nicknamed “Operation Nightingale” resulting in search warrants in five states including Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida. 

More than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas and transcripts were issued. The schools involved in the alleged scheme include Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing, and Sacred Heart International Institute. These schools made $114 million from selling these fake diplomas and transcripts.  

According to a South Florida federal grand jury, the defendants engaged in a scheme that sold fraudulent nursing degree diplomas to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs). These defendants face up to 20 years in prison. The schools involved were charging $10,000 for LPNs and $17,000 for RNs.

Since the Department of Justice released information about the South Florida case more nursing schools have closed throughout the United States including schools in Texas.  

How this affects the Cabrini community 

Cabrini nursing department clinical simulation center. Photo from Cabrini Nursing website.

With more scandals coming out relating to nurses with fake diplomas, it’s worth wondering how the Cabrini community could be affected. Cabrini University opened its nursing program in the fall semester of 2020. According to the Cavalier Express Center, as of spring 2023, 42 students are enrolled in the program. Nursing students work to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree while working in a Clinical Simulation Center.  

“We follow the rules and the regulations to the letter here,” said Christine Krause, nursing support specialist for Cabrini’s nursing program. “We have to document hours of theory and hours of clinical practice and submit it to the state board to show that the students then have graduated from an approved program.”   

Before graduation, nursing students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination to become officially licensed nurses. Krause also had high praise for the program’s founding director, Dr. Jennifer Frey. 

Such a scandal, understandably, has major consequences. “People always trusted nurses, when they do surveys about the most trusted professions,” Krause said. If patients found out their nurses were working under fake nursing licenses there is also the potential for lawsuits, especially if any of these patients suffer harm.  

The ethical dilemma 

One issue brought to light by these recent scandals was the ethical dilemma. Patients must trust their nurses with their lives, and now there will certainly be mistrust between patients and their nurses. “I think it’s very sad,” said

Cabrini nursing students using the Clinical Simulation Center. Photo from Cabrini Flickr.

Solimar Frias, a junior nursing major. “If the nurses knew what they were doing, then that’s not okay. And they shouldn’t have done that, because you’re working with humans and people’s lives, and you don’t want to harm them in any way.

If this scandal were to reach the Cabrini community there would be a lot of consequences. “I would be pretty upset to hear if it came from around this area or even within Cabrini itself and the nursing program,” Megan McLoughlin, sophomore nursing major, said.” There are a lot of drugs that you’re dealing with as a nurse and you could end up ruining someone’s life.”

If anyone in the public wants to verify that their caregiver is officially registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a nurse, go to the PA State Board website to request a verification.

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Jacob Pegan

My name is Jacob Pegan, I am from Aston PA and I am a Senior Digital Communications Major. I am one of the news editors at the Loquitur.
One fun fact about myself is that I have two dogs.
I want to do something in social media or marketing for my career. I like to report on the news. Specifically, I like to write on current and world events and connect them back to the Cabrini area.

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