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Minn. nurses board moves to step up sanctions

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The regulatory board for Minnesota nurses has voted to speed up its disciplinary process and seek authority from the Legislature to investigate and impose tougher sanctions.

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Thursday's actions follow a series of Minneapolis Star Tribune reports revealing that nurses who harmed patients, stole drugs or lied about their criminal histories were allowed to continue practicing. The newspaper reported on the new steps, some of which would require law changes.

Licenses for 115,000 Minnesota nurses fall under board jurisdiction.

The 16-member board intends to meet more often to consider disciplinary cases and cut the time it takes to complete probes.

It also hopes lawmakers will grant authority to sanction a nurse who has failed a state monitoring program for health care professionals with substance abuse or mental problems. As it stands now, the board can't act until it has proven that a nurse discharged from the monitoring program has relapsed before it can seek discipline, according to a board executive.

Gov. Mark Dayton is among those who have criticized the board's oversight as too lax. He described the board as "asleep at the switch" for not coming down harder on offending nurses.

Nursing Board President Deborah Haagenson said its members and staff "are committed to their mission" of protecting the public.

"Characterizations to the contrary are simply not accurate and certainly not helpful," she said.

The board has also requested the ability to review prescription histories of nurses who are under investigation for drug-related misconduct. It would alter the requirement that nurses provide written permission to the board to see those records.

State Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato and a key lawmaker on health issues, said Thursday she will likely support some of the measures. But she said lawmakers might await the results of a proposed legislative audit of the Nursing Board before moving forward.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. 

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