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
Image of content creator smiling for camera
Reviewed by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN 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.

While the credentialing and licensing process for nurses has become highly regulated, there may sometimes be schemes that produce bogus nursing qualifications. This can lead to ill-prepared nurses making their way into the healthcare workforce and endangering patients. Here’s how you can protect your facility from hiring nurses involved in these types of schemes.

What Are Fake Nurses?

These are individuals who use false credentials or diplomas to find employment as nursing professionals. There are various types of schemes that can contribute to the hiring of unqualified nurses. Most notably, 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 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 individuals and institutions that were involved in the issuance of fake degrees.

As a result of that collaboration, states have been able to provide additional information and resources to employers to help screen for applicants with questionable credentials. For example, the Texas Board of Nursing (BON) website lists the names of nurses with fake degrees as well as educational institutions that have been associated with the issuance of fraudulent degrees. Similarly, the BON website in Maryland also lists the names of nurses with public orders against them relating to the issuance of fake degrees.

It’s critical to verify nursing licenses at the earliest opportunity and to have a process for doing so on an ongoing basis, even after applicants are hired. To quickly look up and verify licensure statuses, just click on the link to your state’s BON nursing license lookup website below.

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

Keeping an eye out for these red flags when reviewing resumes adds an extra layer of review before you start investing valuable time and resources in the interviewing process.


The Department of Justice has alleged that the defendants in Operation Nightingale created fake documents stating 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. In addition to license verification, pre-employment screenings may include:

  • Background checks, which typically verify identity, employment history, past addresses, criminal records, driving records, Social Security verification, and sex offender registry status.
  • Verification of work authorization 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.

Fill Your Shifts With Quality Healthcare Providers

Healthcare facilities have enough staffing challenges to face — and worrying about hiring fake nurses shouldn’t be one of them. Looking for a trusted staffing partner? IntelyCare can help you meet your short- and long-term staffing goals with our vetted, trained, and fully qualified nursing professionals.

Reach & recruit the
highest quality nursing professionals

Get in touch with us