Over 900 New York nurses who studied at Florida-based nursing schools that were shut down for allegedly selling fake diplomas are being asked to prove their credentials or surrender their licenses.
According to a letter from state education officials sent on February 7th, nurses have been given 14 days to demonstrate that they have met the educational and training requirements for the national licensure exam.
Meanwhile, an additional 2,400 New Yorkers who enrolled in the Florida schools and have pending licenses had their applications frozen until they prove that they have “met the requirements for acceptable education, examination, and moral character,” according to the state Education Department.
Seven Florida nursing programs were ordered to close in a multi-state federal takedown called “Operation Nightingale,” which indicated that the schools had sold more than 7,600 fraudulent diplomas and transcripts. At least 25 people in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Delaware, and Florida have been arrested for allegedly participating in the scheme, according to the federal indictment unsealed in January.
The state Education Department said it was involved in the investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services to prevent applicants with potentially fraudulent credentials from entering the nursing profession. Aspiring nurses allegedly paid $10,000 or more for the fake diplomas, which allowed them to skip required courses and fast-track the process for them to take the licensure test. Those nurses were then hired by medical institutions across the country, the indictment claims.
Jordan Fensterman, an attorney representing several affected nurses in New York, criticized the “sweeping, arbitrary” decision by state officials to remove the nurses from the healthcare workforce at a time when medical institutions are grappling with a severe staff shortage.
If some nurses are guilty of “cutting corners,” the state should give them the opportunity to redo those credits within a certain timeframe, Fensterman said.
The indictment has had a ripple effect throughout the country as states move to penalize nurses who obtained potentially fraudulent credentials from the Florida schools in question.
State education officials acknowledged that some of the New York nurses who participated in Florida programs may have received some or all of the requisite training to qualify for the national licensure exam.
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