Teacher, leave those nurses alone
I love the Pink Floyd song, “Another Brick in the Wall”. The words “We don’t need no education”, are clever given that the grammar is not correct. We all know that a good education will take you far in this world. A proper education is also a prerequisite for certain professions like nursing. When it comes to educating future nurses, you would “assume” the teacher is not only prepared to teach but has ample experience in her field.
A St. Louis woman who used false credentials not only got a job as a nurse in a local hospital but also lied about her education to get a teaching job teaching at Brown Mackie College in Albuquerque. To make matters even more unfathomable, she made it through a background check that could not verify her education or previous employment. So, how did she get away with it for so long?
Nursing School Teacher Forges Her Credentials and Experience
Samantha Rivera, planned out an elaborate fraud scheme, using a New Mexico nurse’s license with a similar name as her victim of identity. The fake license was enough to get Rivera hired in ICU without any training or qualifications to work there. In 2016, after leaving the first hospital, she used the name and license number of a New Mexico nurse to apply for a nursing job through a St. Louis area staffing agency, ATC Healthcare Services. ATC Healthcare Services placed Rivera at St. Alexius Hospital in ICU, but she was eventually transferred to the geriatric psych ward.
When her contract was not renewed at St. Alexius Hospital through ATC Healthcare Services, she applied for a job with Alternate Nurse Staffing Solutions in Chicago. However, alert staff there became suspicious and enlisted the Inspector General’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services after Rivera could not pass a basic life support skills test.
Rivera pled guilty to healthcare fraud and to identity theft. The federal judge asked her “What the hell were you thinking?” at her sentencing. The Judge found that she never actually graduated from college or went to nursing school and has never been trained or licensed as a nurse or certified in any life support or medical support. For her escapades, Rivera was sentenced to five (5) years of probation and eight (8) months of house arrest.
Warning Signs of Medical Identity Theft and Fraud
- A background check was conducted at some point, but could not verify her education or previous employment. This is the first and biggest red flag. The purpose of a pre-hire background check is to validate if the person is who they say they are and has the requisite education, license, or previous employment to substantiate it.
- A check of the license as compared to her Social Security Number or even Drivers License should have quickly determined that she had assumed the name and license number of a different person. This is called identity theft and is illegal. Proper visual identification of a government-issued license or SSN Card should have caught that.
- A check with the state licensing board against a person’s name would reveal if that person is the same as the person presenting themselves as a nurse.
- An education verification would have determined that she did not graduate college or even attended nursing school.
- A competency test for basic life skills would have determined her lack of any proficiency.
- Her lack of previous references or jobs should have sent off alarm bells.
- It does not appear that she had to prove any continuing education in order to get hired.
- Nurses have to prove that they have been properly inoculated in order to work at a hospital. A check of her shot records would not have matched the name of the person she used on her license.
- A check of her driver’s license would have indicated a different name than that of the licensed person she stole the identity- even if it was “similar”.
- A Social Security Trace would have determined that Rivera was not the same person who was licensed. Her addresses, date of birth, name, and SSN would have all been different.
So many obvious warning signs were missed in the Rivera case. Further, one would assume and hope that if people spent any time with her it should have been obvious that she did not have the skills, education, or training to carry her weight on any nursing floor. It is hard to fake competent care if you have never been trained or educated as a professional.
This case highlights the importance of a proper pre-hire background check and license monitoring. Always ask the applicant for a photo ID and verify it against the actual spelling of the name as it appears on the license. Further, prior references are vital in order to get a good basis of a person’s prior experience, skills, and competency. Periodic tests for competency and proof of continuing education is evidence of not only best practice but also continued qualifications.
Written by Michael Rosen, ESQ
Michael brings over 20 years of experience founding and leading risk mitigation businesses, receiving numerous accolades such as Inc Magazine’s Inc 500 Award and Nashville Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.