Jan. 23, 2019


Arizona Nurse Arrested for Assault on Incapacitated Patient Highlights How Few Nurses Face Punishment for Abuse

Groundbreaking Public Citizen Report Shows That States Are Failing to Protect Patients From Nurse Misconduct

Today’s arrest of a male nurse for the assault of an incapacitated female patient in Arizona underscores what Public Citizen found in a groundbreaking study last month: State nursing boards are failing to protect patients from nurses who engage in misconduct.

Nurse misconduct is a national public health problem that has not received the attention it deserves from the health care community, professional organizations and regulators.

The Public Citizen study found that:

• Only 882 U.S. registered and licensed practical or vocational nurses have been reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) over nearly 14 years (from 2003 through 2016) because of misconduct;

• Sexual misconduct by nurses is reported to the NPDB only if it results in an adverse disciplinary action by state nursing boards (or, less commonly, certain entities such as hospitals) or malpractice payments. The low number of nurses reported to the NPDB because of this misconduct – despite the fact that millions of nurses worked in the profession over the study period – suggests that many nurses who commit misconduct go unpunished.

“Our findings strongly suggest that many nurses who commit misconduct go unpunished until their abuse can no longer be hidden,” said Azza AbuDagga, health services researcher for Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and lead author of the study.

The findings of the study and the Arizona story make a compelling case that it is time for nursing boards to take a zero tolerance stance against all forms of abuse of patients by nurses or any other health care professionals.

AbuDagga is available to discuss this problem from a national perspective.

Read Public Citizen’s study here (PDF).