After meeting Wednesday with all but one member of the Minnesota Board of Nursing, Gov. Mark Dayton supports the board’s view that it needs structural changes to improve its ability to discipline problem nurses.
“The governor felt the meetings were very constructive,” Dayton’s spokesman, Matt Swenson, said Wednesday. “He found the board members to be very diligent.”
Reacting to a Star Tribune investigative series that began in early October, the governor has previously criticized the board, saying it has been “asleep at the switch” and failed to use its authority to crack down on nurses who commit misconduct. The governor told the Star Tribune last month that he wanted to meet with board members before proposing any specific changes.
Dayton met with the members in three groups throughout the morning and early afternoon, avoiding any requirement that the meetings be open to the public.
Board President Deborah Haagenson said that during her meeting with the governor, there was no discussion of his past criticisms.
“He did not express any specific concerns,” she said. “I got the sense that he really wanted to listen and hear what our thoughts and perspectives were. He shared that ‘I can tell you really take your work seriously.’ ”
Swenson said the governor has not changed his position on his previous concerns.
“He’s not giving the board a clean bill of health,” Swenson said. “He’s not indicting them, either.”
The Minnesota Board of Nursing oversees the licenses of more than 115,000 nurses and is the state’s largest health licensing board. It has 16 members, 12 of them nurses, all of whom are appointed by the governor.
In an analysis of thousands of Nursing Board records, the Star Tribune has reported how some nurses have kept their licenses despite neglecting patients, stealing drugs from them or practicing while impaired.
Swenson said after the meetings that the governor believed the problems with the board are “more structural in nature.” Swenson cited a lack of communication between the board and a state monitoring program for health care professionals with problems of substance abuse and mental illness.
Last month, the Star Tribune reported that nurses can spend months under the state monitoring program while missing or failing drug tests, and if they are kicked out of the program, it can take months more for the Nursing Board to act. Some nurses have been able to use or steal narcotics while enrolled in the program, records show, while others completed the monitoring but later relapsed, the Star Tribune found.
Swenson said the governor plans to meet with Nursing Board Executive Director Shirley Brekken after Jan. 1 to discuss “what changes should be made both administratively as well as discuss any changes that should be presented to the Legislature.”
Haagenson said many of those changes were discussed during the board’s most recent meeting this month.
Those include gaining the authority to sanction a nurse who has failed out of the state monitoring program and getting access to prescription histories for nurses under investigation and an exemption from portions of the Criminal Rehabilitation Act.
That law directs nearly all state licensing boards to allow professionals with convictions to practice if they can show that they have been rehabilitated.