California regulators have announced emergency measures to investigate the criminal backgrounds of all registered nurses in the state, days after the Los Angeles Times reported that dozens of nurses had kept their licenses for years despite multiple convictions. Effective immediately, the state nursing board will ask all nurses renewing their licenses whether they have been convicted of any crimes in recent years.
Many other states already require this information, according to the newspaper’s investigation, a collaborative effort with the nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica. Nurses in California must renew their licenses every two years. The Board of Registered Nursing must also develop emergency regulations to obtain fingerprints from all nurses licensed before 1990. Fingerprinting has been required for nurses licensed since then, allowing law enforcers to flag the nursing board when a nurse is arrested. But until now, nurses licensed earlier–about 40% of the active nurses in California–had escaped scrutiny.