The State Worker

California board drops audit of 52,000 nurses

A state board that licenses vocational nurses and mental health workers demanded education records from 58,000 people in November for an audit. It canceled the review after checking a little more than 8,000 of them.
A state board that licenses vocational nurses and mental health workers demanded education records from 58,000 people in November for an audit. It canceled the review after checking a little more than 8,000 of them. Fresno Bee file

A California licensing board curtailed a massive audit of nursing credentials that it launched late last year, choosing not to finish a project that threatened to overwhelm the small department.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians reviewed just 15 percent of the education records it demanded from more than 52,000 nurses and mental health workers last November before it elected to end the audit.

It did not plan to send letters to nurses and mental health workers announcing the end of the audit. Taking that step “would be an additional workload,” according to an internal staff message announcing the audit’s closure.

It will post a notice on its website soon, said Veronica Harms, a spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The board “definitely had some lessons learned from the audit, and it wants to re-evaluate the process and policy moving forward,” she said.

Vocational nurses provide basic medical care under the supervision of registered nurses or doctors. Of the 8,092 records the board reviewed, 95.5 percent were in compliance with standards. The memo obtained by The Bee said that 0.03 percent of the records were out of compliance and would be referred to the department’s enforcement division.

The scale of the audit was a mistake that the board initially attributed to a mailroom error. The board had intended to send out the requests for records in batches; instead they were mailed over about four weeks.

Normally, the board checks education records from about 1,100 nurses and mental health workers in a year.

The audit drew early criticism from an independent consultant appointed by the Legislature to monitor the board. In a January report, the consultant wrote “the rationale for abruptly launching compliance audits of 40 percent of all BVNPT licensees over a period of just a few weeks, rather than spreading the audits over a longer period of time, is not entirely clear.”

The consultant estimated it would take nine full-time employees a year to review all of the records the board received. The board has 68 employees.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians is an 11-member board that has struggled with vacancy rates and slow enforcement recently, according to reports from the monitor and legislative committees.

It audit also drew criticism from lawmakers at an April hearing where they considered whether to allow the board to continue operating. Two bills are moving forward that would “sunset” the board’s authority and steer its responsibilities to a different licensing organization.

“It appears as if a majority of the Board members are turning a blind eye to the issues that have been raised by the (consultant) and others, and continue to ignore ongoing mismanagement of this board,” said a report for lawmakers at the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.

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