Operation Nightingale: What Healthcare Facilities Need to Know

In January of 2023, it was revealed that several Florida nursing schools were under investigation for giving out fake nursing diplomas. Over 7,600 diplomas were purchased by Registered Nurse (RN) and Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) candidates who were then able to take the national nursing board exam. It’s estimated that 37% of those who allegedly purchased fake documents passed the test and went on to obtain licensure.

The schools involved with this fraudulent scheme have been stripped of their accreditation. Several school directors and fake diploma recipients have been charged in connection with the scheme, which has been coined by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as “Operation Nightingale,” a disheartening homage to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Knowing that there are so many individuals currently treating patients without proper credentials is alarming. In this article, we will discuss what’s being done to rectify this situation, and how healthcare facilities can identify partners who can help them avoid these harmful schemes.

Protecting Healthcare Facilities Affected by Operation Nightingale

According to information provided by the DOJ, the bad actors involved in the alleged nursing diploma scam have gone on to obtain employment in at least eight states, including Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia, and Texas. The state boards of nursing in each of these states have been reviewing the nursing licenses associated with the scandal and have acted to annul, revoke, rescind, or ask the individuals to voluntarily surrender their license. Their investigations are ongoing.

If you suspect someone has been involved in selling or purchasing a fake nursing diploma, whether in relation to a Florida nursing school under investigation or otherwise, you can submit a complaint through the Office of the Inspector General’s hotline.

Remain Vigilant – Follow Proper Credentialing Practices

The consequences of the scheme uncovered by Operation Nightingale have an obvious impact on public health and patient safety. To protect their residents, healthcare facilities must remain vigilant about following proper credentialing practices for anyone who steps foot into their building to provide patient care. 

Credentialing is the process of gathering and verifying the credentials of a licensed professional to ensure compliance with standards set forth by the verifying organization. Credentialing requirements are guided by CMS, the Joint Commission, and state/local regulatory bodies, however, organizations set their own minimum requirements for appropriately vetting a healthcare provider.

An effective credentialing process involves verifying the following information for any healthcare professional in a healthcare facility:

  • Professional education and work history
  • State work licenses and certifications
  • Work eligibility (SSN, I-9)
  • Criminal history background checks 
  • Medicare and state Medicaid sanction reports
  • State board sanction reports
  • State sex offender registries
  • Motor vehicle history
  • Clinical competencies

A thorough credentialing and onboarding process will help ensure a healthcare professional’s credentials, competency, and history are verified through primary review sources and raise alerts to any substandard verifications. Running frequent checks on all of these items can help protect a healthcare facility against liability.

Look for a Healthcare Talent Partner that Takes Compliance Seriously

Operation Nightingale has elevated issues related to patient care and public safety. Having a Quality Assurance team on your side will help instill confidence in your workforce by working with you to identify and resolve clinical or professional issues with care providers, and working in tandem with a team of credentialing specialists to ensure that the care providers working in your building are in compliance.

Here are the six things a healthcare facility should look for when evaluating a partner for compliance:

  1. Prioritizing quality
  2. Fostering a culture of quality
  3. Prioritizing training and education
  4. Responding to clinical and professional complaints
  5. Following safety reporting and HIPAA compliance
  6. Standardized daily workflows

If you run a healthcare facility, providing your residents with high quality care is likely one of your top priorities. Working with a healthcare talent partner that employs a Quality Assurance team can help you ensure that your residents are getting the highest quality of care possible, and that the care providers are compliant.

Moving Forward from Operation Nightingale

In its press release, the DOJ described how the alleged fraudulent diploma scheme “tarnishes the reputation of nurses” who completed their schoolwork and obtained their nursing diplomas and licenses legally, especially those who attended a Florida nursing school under investigation. The scandal has also called into question the integrity of the entire healthcare system at a time when public sentiment is already fraught with concerns related to understaffing and nursing shortages. 

The best thing that healthcare facilities can do to protect themselves during this time is to remain hypervigilant with their credentialing processes and to consider working with a healthcare talent partner that employs a Quality Assurance team. With as many checks and balances in place as possible, weeding out unqualified care providers – whether associated with a Florida nursing school under investigation or not – will become easier.

Ready to Find Quality Staff with a Healthcare Talent Partner?

Operation Nightingale has raised the stakes for credentialing and quality assurance in healthcare. Luckily, IntelyCare sets the standard for both of these disciplines. We are a talent partner you can trust. Talk to us today to learn how to stabilize your workforce and protect your healthcare facility from bad actors.


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