Let me begin with a confession. I have to rely on home health care workers to take care of one of my parents. I wish it could be different but we live 6 states away. So I must daily rely on these women, many strangers, to care for my loved one.
And I am not alone. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 1 million home health care workers in the United States in 2008. That means hundreds of thousands rely on their care. And these services are not simply limited to the elderly (my Mom suffers from MS and is a young 62 year old).
According to the LA Times this week, many of these health care workers are working without clean licenses and despite very serious past actions in other states.
How does this happen? Most often, a family in need will call a staffing service and rely on whomever is sent. You are not given full names to look up their license information, and rarely if ever receive a reference.
The hope is that the staffing agency has done their homework. But what if the nurse recently moved to hide past sins? How can you know?
LA Times reports “Using public databases and state disciplinary reports, reporters found hundreds of cases in which registered nurses held clear licenses in some states after they’d been sanctioned in others, often for serious misdeeds. In California alone, a months-long review of its 350,000 active nurses found at least 177 whose licenses had been revoked, surrendered, suspended or denied elsewhere.”
Let me make another point. You do not lose your license for a minor mistake. It takes a HUGE mistake – like killing someone, or abuse, or neglect.
So what can families do? (And this where I need to take my own advice)
1. Ask for full name of every one assigned to your home, as well as states where licenses were held.
2. Look up license information (sadly there is no universal database, you will have to go state by state) – Virginia’s site is here
3. Ask the nurse her qualifications / references ( I refused to hire a woman one time who said all of her references were out of state and could not be reached – RED FLAG).
4. Try to hire NOT FOR PROFIT staffing companies rather than for profit ones.
5. If you do not trust a nurse that has been sent, notify the staffing agency she is not welcome back.
6. Make all complaints in WRITING – and keep a copy.
In Virginia, a nurse will be suspended for serious misconduct in another state – but what if the State Board doesn’t learn about the transgression?
This is when you have to be your own sleuth. And if, God forbid, you learn about someone’s problems the hard way, and your loved one is abused or neglected, call our office. We will assist you in every aspect of the case – from investigation, to the Courtroom.
I know how hard it is to trust a stranger with your loved one’s care – but don’t let these companies get away with not doing their research.