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Good nurse, bad law? New Jersey nurses often face an uphill battle.

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2023 | Nurse Licensing |

The Good Nurse on Netflix shares Amy Loughren’s journey as a nurse who worked with Charles Cullen. Charles Cullen is a former nurse currently serving multiple life sentences and is suspected of being the most prolific serial killer in history. Cullen gained the trust of his colleagues and patients and admitted to using his position as a nurse to kill dozens. He would kill his patients by spiking intravenous bags and directly injecting patients with deadly medications.

He continued to harm patients for years until another nurse took a stand. Amy Loughren was part of a criminal investigation that ended with the arrest and imprisonment of Cullen. In an attempt to reduce the risk of similar situations and better ensure patient safety, New Jersey lawmakers responded to this case with the passage of the Health Care Professional Responsibility and Reporting Enhancement Act (the Cullen Law).

Although a noble effort, this law has had unintended consequences that may do more to hurt the field of nursing than increase its safety.

What is the Health Care Professional Responsibility and Reporting Enhancement Act?

Signed into law in 2005, there are two key provisions nurses and other medical professionals need to know.

  1. Mandatory reporting. This law increases mandatory reporting requirements and requires healthcare professionals file a report on a nurse or other healthcare professional when they have information of incompetence, impairment, or professional misconduct that has a negative impact on patient care.
  2. Criminal background checks. It also requires employers complete criminal background checks before a professional can get licensure in New Jersey.

The law has had unforeseen consequences. Namely, a negative impact on otherwise honorable nurses who make an error. A common example is a report of incompetence that is more likely due to inadequate staffing and more of an administrative issue than one that signals a concern with the nurse.

What if I am the subject of a report?

Regardless of the frustrations with this law, lawmakers have yet to make changes to better ensure it works as intended. As such, those who are the subject of a report based on this law are wise to seek legal counsel. The implications of the report are huge and can impact your future, making it difficult to continue in your chosen profession. An attorney can review the situation and provide guidance.

Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication.

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