Nursing dean advocating for new patient safety laws

As a member of the Minnesota Board of Nursing, Dr. Jeanine Gangeness, founding dean of the Bemidji School of Nursing at Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, is advocating for new laws that will strengthen the board’s ability to ensure quality care and public safety throughout the state.

Gangeness has been on the state’s Board of Nursing since March 2012. The board oversees the licenses Minnesota’s 115,000 nurses and is the state’s largest health licensing board. Its 16 members, which include eight registered nurses, four licensed practical nurses and four members of the public, are appointed by the governor and serve four-year terms.

The board has been developing a plan to pursue new and amended legislation in order to increase its ability to:

• expand the use of fingerprint background checks to all licensed nurses in the state, and not just to nurses requesting first-time licensure;

• increase cooperation and communication between the board and the state’s Health Professional’s Service Program, a state program created in 1994 to provide an avenue for nurses and other healthcare professionals to seek treatment for issues related to substance abuse or psychiatric or medical disorders as an alternative to discipline from the Board of Nursing;

• increase access to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program data so that information about potential abuse, misuse or diversion of prescription medications defined by state statues as controlled substances can be used earlier in board investigations; and

• to pursue an exemption for nursing professionals from Minnesota State Statute 364, which deals with the rehabilitation of persons charged with crimes and how that rehabilitation impacts a person’s ability to safely perform the duties of their profession.

“The goal for nurses who need help to receive it and not care for patients until they get better and then come back to practice,” Gangeness said. “We don’t want people practicing while they’re trying to get the help they need.”

Gangeness was one of a handful of members of the board to have individual meetings with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in mid-December to discuss the legislative changes needed to strengthen the board’s oversight ability.

“These are minor tweaks to the state’s statutes for the way we do our work as a regulatory agency,” Gangeness said. “The reason we met with Governor Dayton was to make this process better and to decrease the number of egregious nursing actions that put individuals at risk. I think these proposals are a good start.”

Minnesota’s 2014 legislative session begins on Feb. 25.

• Minnesota Board of Nursing
• Health Professionals Service Program
• Prescription Monitoring Program
• Minnesota State Statute 364