In late January 2023, the Department of Justice filed charges against 25 individuals in Florida alleging they participated in an intricate wire fraud scheme that awarded a fake nursing diploma to over 7,600 aspiring nurses. According to the indictments, individuals were able to purchase fake nursing school accreditation, allowing them to skip classwork and move straight on to the exams.
Of the 7,600 individuals who were allegedly awarded fake diplomas, approximately 37% passed their exams and were awarded licenses by a state board of nursing. This action affected both RNs and LPNs, all of whom could potentially be working in healthcare facilities without proper education and training.
A Fake Nursing Diploma Could Allegedly Have Been Purchased in at Least Eight States
According to information provided by the Justice Department and officials in Florida, the alleged scam involved a growing number of South Florida-based accredited nursing schools. Official records indicate that most of the defendants were nursing school recruiters, owners, and managers who lived outside of Florida in states like New York and New Jersey.
From 2016 to 2021, the defendants allegedly sold fake nursing diplomas and educational transcripts from the nursing schools for about $15,000 each. According to the Department of Justice, these false documents allowed individuals to sit for the National Council Licensing Exam for Registered Nurses NCLEX licensing exam, obtain a state nursing license, and subsequently obtain employment in various healthcare facilities across several states, including Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia, and Texas. The state boards of nursing are currently reviewing the nursing licenses associated with the scandal and many licenses have been annulled, rescinded, or asked to be surrendered. Many others remain in legal limbo as investigations are still ongoing.
How Does This Affect Nursing?
The fact that so many individuals were awarded a fake nursing diploma has a huge impact on nursing. That this scandal went on for so long calls into question the integrity of state boards of nursing, the validity of other educational institutions, and most importantly, patient safety.
Here are a few examples of how the fake nursing diploma scandal harms the nursing profession.
- State boards could lose credibility. It is the responsibility of the board of nursing in each state to vet the legitimacy of educational records for all applicants trying to take the NCLEX licensing exam. Applicants’ faith in state boards of nursing are rightfully shaken as a result of the fake nursing diploma scandal.
- Patient safety is at risk. Individuals with unknown educational backgrounds have been given documents that allow them to fulfill the stated regulatory requirements for practicing nursing in at least eight states. This poses a huge threat to patient safety and public health in these states.
- Nursing is under scrutiny. Nursing has long been voted as the most trusted profession for 21 years in a row. Public sentiment about nursing, especially in the eight states where individuals were awarded a fake nursing diploma, could easily affect the trustworthiness score that the profession receives in the coming year, which is an indicator of how the public views nursing as a whole.
What Does This Mean for Nursing Students?
As of February 15, 2023, Florida’s Commission for Independent Education has ordered a pause in graduations and enrollments of seven of the alleged fake nursing diploma schools. This means that while the United States faces a massive nursing shortage, students who may have been pursuing legitimate degrees cannot graduate or enroll for the next two months.
In addition, the students who have successfully completed the coursework at any of these seven schools will have a stain on their record going forward, simply by being associated with those institutions. Students who attended Quincy College in Quincy, Mass., felt a similar stigma when their school’s nursing program was shut down due to poor scoring. The 250 students who were in the program when the school shut down had to re-enroll when it reopened and start again if they still wanted to obtain their nursing degree.
Advancing Your Career Legitimately
Companies like IntelyCare care about public health, respect the nursing profession, and stand behind the American Nursing Association’s Nursing Code of Ethics. We perform a required review and investigation of all potential nursing applicants as required by state and federal regulations.
IntelyCare also offers educational opportunities that help improve competence, confidence, and skills. Through IntelyEdu, nurses of all experience levels may complete American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) accredited continuing education courses and certificate programs that support the development of healthcare quality for all individuals needing care.
Taking Charge of Your Career
A fake nursing diploma hurts more than the person to whom it’s issued. Looking to find an employer with an established reputation? IntelyCare prioritizes quality and professionalism. Learn more about the benefits of joining IntelyCare so you can see how we can help you take your career to the next level.