Nurses tangled in degree scheme still fighting for licenses

Hundreds of nurses who have asserted their innocence in the national degree scheme are still fighting to win back their licenses.

The scheme involved selling more than 7,600 fraudulent diplomas and transcripts from three now-shuttered nursing schools in Florida to aspiring nurses. About 37 percent of individuals who bought fake documents passed the NCLEX exam and presumably went on to secure employment at healthcare facilities. In January, 25 people were charged in connection with their alleged participation in running the scheme. Since then, a total of 20 defendants have been convicted or have pleaded guilty.

In the wake of the scheme, many state nursing boards suspended the licenses of nurses with degrees from the implicated nursing schools. Numerous nurses who attended the schools maintain they are innocent, saying they attended classes, completed required coursework and did not pay for a fraudulent degree. Nearly 10 months after the scheme was unearthed, many are still trying to regain licenses.  

Iowa nurse Helena Dahnweih's license was revoked last month after a July hearing with the Iowa Board of Nursing. She recently filed a court petition seeking a judicial review of the board's decision, claiming she was a victim of the degree scheme and that she filed her license application in good faith, according to the Iowa Capitol Dispatch.

In June, lawyer Joseph Lento told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he was representing nearly 100 nurses across the country who say they were wrongly accused of buying fake degrees. Mr. Lento said he is preparing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of his clients. 

Nurses have expressed concern about securing future employment or having to pay to redo their nurse training. Others have returned to past roles as licensed practical nurses, where they make less money.

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