Temp Firms a Magnet for Unfit Nurses
This story was co-published with the Los Angeles Times  on Dec. 6, 2009.
Firms that supply temporary nurses to the nation’s hospitals are taking perilous shortcuts in their screening and supervision, sometimes putting seriously ill patients in the hands of incompetent or impaired caregivers.
Emboldened by a chronic nursing shortage and scant regulation, the firms vie for their share of a free-wheeling, $4-billion industry. Some have become havens for nurses who hopscotch from place to place to avoid the consequences of their misconduct. (see related story: A ‘Crazy’ Way for an Industry to Operate )
A joint investigation with the Los Angeles Times found dozens of instances in which staffing agencies skimped on background checks or ignored warnings from hospitals about sub-par nurses on their payrolls. Some hired nurses sight unseen, without even conducting an interview.As a result, fill-in nurses with documented histories of poor care have fallen asleep on the job, failed to perform critical tests or stolen drugs intended to ease patients’ pain or anxiety.