Nurses seldom disciplined for sexual misconduct, study finds

Fewer than 900 nurses have been reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank for sexual misconduct in the last 14 years, according to a study published in Public Health Nursing.

For the study, researchers from the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen examined reports of adverse state nursing board licensure actions and malpractice payment filed with the NPDB between 2003 and 2016 for all nurses.

Here are four study findings:

1. In total, 882 registered and licensed practical or vocational nurses were reported to the NPDB during the study period. State nursing boards reported 866 of these cases.

2. About 91 percent of reports involved serious consequences, such as revocation, suspension or voluntary surrender of a nursing license.

3. Male nurses make up only 10 percent of the U.S. nursing population but accounted for 63 percent of all nurses reported for sexual misconduct.

4. Sixteen of 33 nurses who engaged in sexual misconduct with patients that led to NPDB malpractice payment reports were not disciplined by state nursing boards.

"Our findings, along with other published evidence, suggest that many nurses in the U.S. who exploit their patients are not being held to account," lead study author Azza AbuDagga, PhD, health services researcher for Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said in a press release. "When just a few of the country's nurses are flagged for this exploitive behavior, something is clearly wrong."

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