The debate over second chances

If a police officer, social worker or firefighter were charged with criminal neglect; had botched a case that led to death; had a conviction of physical or sexual assault or drug theft; was fired for incompetence, or allowed someone in their care to die by failing to act — all scenarios in which the Minnesota Board of Nursing allowed nurses to remain licensed (“Nurses in trouble get second chances,” Oct. 6) — under no circumstance would they be allowed to continue working in that profession. Nor should they.

Why does the board hold nurses to a lower standard? My thoughts are with the families who have suffered needlessly, and who will continue to suffer needlessly, until the Board of Nursing gets it figured out.


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Gov. Mark Dayton’s reaction to the Star Tribune’s article was at best emotional and in fact unconscionable. He is giving the false impression that he can name two new board members with marching orders “to understand these problems and insist on a very different approach.” This implies an approach to deny second chances and to give the appearance that the board is more interested in protecting the public than in punishing bad nurses.

Unfortunately for the governor, board members, in the exercise of their function and duties, are bound by the law, by established rules and regulations, by precedent, and by the culture of justice to understand how a violation occurred and how it could be prevented in the future. The board members hearing a case are advised by a lawyer from the attorney general’s office. The hearing panel presenting the case against the offending nurse is also advised and assisted by lawyers from the AG’s office.

Potential appointees are now left to wonder about the enormity or ease of the assignments on the board. The newly appointed members will quickly learn that due process and objectivity make more sense and render their role a little more serious than marching to the tune of mitigating the “shock” of our elected officials.

GREG LANGASON, Minneapolis


The writer, an LPN, served on the Minnesota Board of Nursing from 2002 to 2011.

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Having practiced as a nurse for 45 years in several states, I can attest to 1) the extreme variability among the states’ approaches to discipline; 2) the commitment by each board in each state to protect the public despite differing political and legislative climates, and 3) the high regard in which the Minnesota board is held nationally. And yet, we do need more information, including examples of the many nurses who have made mistakes, have successfully been rehabilitated and gone on to save lives.

Many years ago, in another state, I worked with a nurse who had diverted drugs. She reported this action, participated in a stringent rehab program, and today is a highly regarded administrator at a major medical center. Not all nurses are as successful, however, as we saw in the article. And not all situations are clear-cut. To create appropriate, sustainable change, all aspects of this difficult process have to be examined thoroughly and without bias.

JOANNE DISCH, Minneapolis


The writer is a clinical professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.

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A persistent complaint in search of a problem

I was disappointed to see Lori Sturdevant, in her Oct. 6 column, repeat the often-made suggestion that the Legislature should require the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system “to remove persistent roadblocks to the transfer of credits from one state college or university to another.” To which “roadblocks” is she referring? Which institutions or programs have persistently embedded such roadblocks? Have any refused to comply with the law that all MnSCU schools must accept courses completed at other state schools to fulfill the statewide Minnesota Transfer Curriculum? Which of the thousands of “articulation agreements” between individual programs at state universities and colleges are failing? Has MnSCU taken no steps to address the findings of a study made about three years ago that found that of the less than 10 percent of transfer students encountering problems, a significant portion had not sought or received advice about how to plan for transferring or were unaware of the transfer appeals process that usually works in the student’s favor?

Any individual who experiences difficulty with a large and complex system deserves attention, but discussion of the “transfer problem” in the Legislature and media continues to be driven by anecdotes and assumptions. Let’s see some actual data to determine if “transfer problems” are indeed systemic before inviting the Legislature to make blanket requirements whose “cure” could be far worse than any “problem” they address.

DONALD F. LARSSON, Bloomington


The writer is a professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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Perhaps this story can inspire mentoring

As you were reading about the 9-year-old airline stowaway, you were wondering to yourself “what can I do to help?” (At least, I hope that is what you were asking yourself.) You might not be able to help that child directly, but you can help others like him by becoming a mentor.

I was a mentor for Bolder Options, which supports youths who are “at-risk for dropping out of school or becoming involved in delinquent or unhealthy behaviors.” There is a particular need for male mentors. I promise that you’ll get a lot out of it, too. Go to www.bolderoptions.org.