The state’s largest nursing union wants more scrutiny of nurse disciplinary practices, saying in a statement that “the illicit behavior by nurses and follow-up discipline by the Minnesota Board of Nursing” revealed in a series of stories by the Star Tribune is “undoubtedly devastating to patients and families.”

While the Minnesota Nurses Association said such misconduct is rare, “we want above all to be assured of systems in place that prevent future incidences,” the group said in a statement before Wednesday’s legislative hearing about the Nursing Board’s disciplinary practices.

A representative of the Minnesota Nurses Association declined to comment Thursday beyond the statement, which was posted on its website.

At the hearing, officials from the board said they need more authority to deny licenses to nurses who have committed crimes and more information about nurses who are stealing drugs from their workplaces. Nursing Board staff members also defended the agency’s disciplinary record.

In an analysis 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.

The union, which represents 20,000-plus nurses, the majority of whom work in hospitals, raised several questions on how to improve the board’s discipline, including whether the board should adopt benchmarks to make discipline more uniform.

Currently, state law gives the board wide discretion on how to decide disciplinary actions against nurses and does not require any automatic suspensions for misconduct.

Among the other questions raised by the union:

“Does any regulatory board have enough resources to maintain the latest knowledge about dealing with substance abuse disorder and other mental health afflictions?”

“Do regulatory board members have enough time and opportunity to adequately review and discuss cases?”

“Does workload negatively impact a worker’s behavior?”