How to Protect Your Facility Against Fake Nurses

Image of content creator smiling at the camera
Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurses, with their backs facing the camera, walking down the hallway of a hospital.

Your healthcare organization invests in people as part of its commitment to providing high-quality care. From the surgeons performing life-saving operations to the therapists who follow through with recovery, it’s the people who make all the difference. Your standards of care become compromised when fake nurses enter the building.

A scheme to produce bogus nursing degrees was discovered in January 2023 — and many ill-prepared nurses made their way into the healthcare workforce. Here’s how you can protect your facility from hiring nurses involved in these schemes.

What Are Fake Nurses?

A federal investigation known as Operation Nightingale identified three nursing schools in Florida that allegedly sold fake nursing degrees and transcripts to nursing students. Between the three programs, over 7,600 fake diplomas were issued.

This allowed them to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), and 37% of diploma recipients obtained RN, LPN, or LVN licenses. Nurses gained employment in at least the following nine states using fake diplomas:

  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Texas

In the ongoing investigation, 25 defendants were charged with running the scheme, and the names of the nurses involved were released. State nursing boards started investigations and began taking action against the nurses identified. However, it’s unclear how many nurses slipped through the cracks — or whether additional similar schemes could emerge.

Ways to Avoid Hiring Fake Nurses

Nurses involved in education schemes don’t have the educational coursework and clinical hours required to sit for nursing boards. Employing nurses with bogus credentials hurts a healthcare organization’s credibility and presents a public safety risk.

As a healthcare employer, you can take extra steps to prevent hiring fraudulent nurses — and identify those who potentially may be working in your facility already. There are measures you can take at each phase of the hiring process to protect your facility from unqualified nurses.

Screening Applications

The National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) brings together regulating bodies to establish nursing standards, including nursing licensure. In its official statement, NCSBN announced a collaboration with state and federal agencies to identify those who issued fake degrees. To check the status of licensure restrictions in your state, check your state Board of Nursing (BON) website, where you may find names of nurses to screen for in applications.

For example, the Texas BON lists the names of nurses with fake degrees. It includes formal charges filed, disciplinary action, or licensure denial taken against them. On the Maryland BON website, you can find the names of nurses with public orders such as license suspension, revocation, reprimand, and voluntary surrender.

Reviewing Resumes

Check for resume red flags that could indicate a nurse is being untruthful about their background. Be alert for signs of obtaining a degree from a diploma mill, such as:

  • short program duration (for example, just a few months for a BSN)
  • schools with names that are similar to those of reputable universities
  • transcripts with irrelevant nursing classes
  • a large gap in time between graduation and passing the NCLEX
  • lack of evidence of transfer credits from one school to another (for example, if a nurse failed a program prior to enrolling in a fake diploma program)

All of the nursing schools named in Operation Nightingale were shut down. However, healthcare employers should take extra caution if a job candidate lists one of them on a resume:

  • Siena College in Broward County, FL
  • Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, FL
  • Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County, FL


The Department of Justice has alleged that the defendants in Operation Nightingale created fake documents which state that nurses completed the coursework and clinicals necessary for a nursing degree. If you have concerns about a job candidate’s education, use targeted nursing interview questions to dig deeper. Ask for details about their clinical experiences, coursework, and practicum projects in nursing school.

Pre-Employment Screening

Pre-employment screening allows organizations to gather information about new hires prior to onboarding. Consider running additional screenings on individuals who raise a red flag as potential fake nurses. Pre-employment screenings may include:

  • license verification through Nursys, the preferred verification system for 58 boards of nursing
  • background check, which typically consists of identity, employment history, past addresses, criminal records, driving records, Social Security verification, and sex offender registry
  • identity verification via form I-9
  • pre-hire assessments to test nursing knowledge

Identifying Nurses Within Your Organization

Nursing shortages create a high demand for nurses — which increases the potential for nursing diploma schemes. What do you do if an employee at your organization is identified as a fake nurse? Report their name, license number, and employment agency to your state board of nursing.

Invest in Quality Healthcare Providers

Healthcare facilities have enough staffing challenges to face — and hiring fake nurses shouldn’t be one of them. When you invest in the right people, your organization thrives. Find more ways to secure high-quality nursing staff when you sign up for IntelyCare’s free newsletter.