Licensed nurses can face disciplinary proceedings before the Texas Board of Nursing (the Board) for various reasons. From criminal behavior to errors in nursing practice, sanctions for violations of the state laws and Board rules that govern nursing can vary in severity. In addition, as several Texas nurses found out recently, fraudulent nursing licenses can be a source of discipline before the Board.
An experienced nursing license defense lawyer can represent your interests in any disciplinary proceedings before the Board, no matter their cause. We can review your case, explain your potential options, and work to achieve a reasonable solution with the Board to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
Operation Nightingale Uncovers Fraudulent Nursing Degree Scheme across the U.S.
On January 25, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Inspector General, along with their law enforcement partners, launched a multi-state action designed to arrest individuals involved in a scheme to sell more than 7,600 fraudulent nursing school diplomas and transcripts from accredited Florida-based nursing schools. Individuals who acquired the fraudulent credentials sat for the national nursing board exam, and those who were successful became eligible to secure employment as Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). The law enforcement sweep resulted in twenty-five individuals facing federal criminal charges.
Law enforcement authorities found that the following schools had sold fraudulent nursing school credentials:
- Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County, Florida
- Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Florida
- Quisqueya School of Nursing d/b/a Sunshine Academy, Florida
- Med-Life Institute WPB, Florida
- Quisqueya Health Care Academy, Florida
- Siena College of Health II, Broward County, Florida
Two other schools – Med-Life Institute, Lauderdale Lakes, and Techni-Pro Institute, LLC, Boca Raton – voluntarily relinquished their licenses, may no longer enroll new students, and must close after all their students have finished their programs, withdrawn, or transferred to other programs.
Additionally, the Florida Commission for Independent Education has ordered has placed the following five schools on probation:
- Carleen Institute of South Florida, West Palm Beach
- Myrielle School of Nursing, Palm Springs
- Nursing Bridges Institute, Pensacola
- Palm Beach International College, Lake Worth
- Suncoast College of Health, Bradenton
These schools cannot enroll new students, graduate current students, or issue diplomas or transcripts for past students until at least June 1, 2023.
However, not every licensee who attended the schools mentioned above was involved in the fraudulent nursing school diploma scheme and may have legitimate credentials.
Authorities also cautioned that similar schemes at other schools might exist, and employers should be vigilant in verifying their employees’ credentials are valid. Some warning signs of fraudulent nursing school credentials include the following:
- If the licensee has a country of origin other than the United States, some fraudulent transcripts reflect dates of attendance while the licensee was still living in the licensee’s country of origin.
- The date of the licensee’s graduation listed on the diploma in some cases coincides with periods when some of the fraudulent schools were in ‘teach out’ status and were not permitted to enroll new students beyond specified dates or closed and no longer enrolling students, as follows:
- Palm Beach School of Nursing last had enrollment on 09/15/2017 and was in “teach out” status in 2020 and 2021.
- Med-Life Institute West Palm Beach closed on 07/20/2016 and was in “teach out” status in 2020 and 2021.
- Sunshine Academy closed on 03/29/2017.
- Quisqueya had its last enrollment on 06/08/2018 and was in “teach out status in 2020 and 2021.
- Siena College of Health and Siena College of Health II closed on 10/13/2021.
- Sacred Heart International Institute closed on 06/01/2021.
- Many licensees alleged that hours worked at the LVN level would count toward the clinical requirements for an RN degree, even though none of the listed schools were authorized to offer a bridge program;
- Many licensees failed one nursing program before attending another school, so employers might closely scrutinize the legitimacy of transfer credits.
- Many licensees claimed that clinical instruction occurred in Texas when the Board had not approved it by an out-of-state program.
- There may be a large gap in time between a licensee’s date of graduation listed on the diploma and the date the licensee passed the NCLEX examination.
- Although nursing programs in Florida were authorized to temporarily provide online instruction from 03/21/20 to 06/26/21 under Emergency Order 20-003 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, licensees still must have completed the required number of hours of instruction for graduation.
The Impact on Texas Nurses and the Texas Board of Nursing
Unfortunately, some nurses in Texas were the recipient of these fraudulent nursing degrees. The Board has formally charged over 120 Texas nurses with violating an act listed in Tex. Occ. Code §301.452(b) or violates other laws. Formal charges are not a final disciplinary action, so these nurses may continue working as nurses pending disciplinary proceedings.
Meanwhile, another thirteen nurses who received fraudulent nursing diplomas related to Operation Nightingale have voluntarily surrendered their nursing licenses to the Board. Furthermore, the Board has denied a nursing license to three other individuals who presented fraudulent nursing degrees and/or transcripts from nursing schools.
Get Assistance Defending Your Nursing License Today
Be sure to get legal assistance if you face disciplinary action against your nursing license. Contact a Texas nursing license defense attorney immediately if you receive or anticipate receiving notice of disciplinary proceedings.