In my role as a pediatric home care RN, I recently had the need to contact a patient’s physician to discuss an in-home hazard I had observed and that was negatively affecting the ordered plan of care.
When calling the physicians office (a pediatric practice within a multispecialty clinic), I identified myself and told the receptionist I wanted to leave a message for the physician. I was transferred and the phone was answered with, “This is Lisa (not her name), the nurse.” I began speaking to her as one pediatric nurse to another, but within 30 seconds, I heard, “Huh? I don’t know what are you talking about.”
It was evident that I was, in fact, speaking to a medical assistant, and she confirmed this when I asked. She also told me, “They tell us to say we are nurses.”
Knowing that misrepresenting oneself as a nurse is considered fraud in this state, I met with the clinic’s nursing supervisor (an LPN). She told me she was familiar with the staff member but was unaware of any practice telling MAs to call themselves nurses. I emphasized the seriousness of this illegal practice, and she assured me she would follow up both with the office staff and with me. I have not heard back from her, and my messages to her have not been returned after more than three months. What should be my next step?
Nancy Brent replies:
It sounds like you have done all that you can do within the facility to rectify this problem. In fact, it sounds as though the clinic’s nursing supervisor, an LPN, is avoiding you. By the way, having an LPN as a nursing supervisor is very questionable, especially if she is supervising RNs.
Because you know first hand that the person you spoke to misrepresented herself, you can report this to appropriate outside authorities (including the state board of nursing) which will handle it pursuant to their established procedures. The fact that you reported this to the LPN and she did not take action makes her subject to discipline by the state board of nursing as well. It may well be that there were no directives given to staff about calling themselves nurses, but the LPN’s inaction in such a situation, and her supervisory status, most likely would be evaluated by the board.
If you are uncomfortable about making this report (or reports) on your own, you can consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who can help guide you through the process.