Falsification in nursing: It’s a legal line you should not cross

By | 2022-09-22T11:56:26-04:00 June 9th, 2017|Tags: |23 Comments

Falsification of credentials on business cards raises red flags

A reader asked about a nurse colleague who had business cards made that falsely indicated the nurse colleague had a BSN degree when she did not, nor was she enrolled in a baccalaureate nursing education program. Moreover, according to the reader, the nurse’s immediate supervisor knows the nurse does not have a BSN, but has not required her to correct the fabrication. The reader was concerned about where to go with this information.

The nurse certainly could try to report her concerns to the CNO, who should appropriately intervene in the situation. Or the nurse could report the situation to her state board of nursing, which would investigate the matter and determine if disciplinary proceedings should be initiated. The bottom line is that the reader is describing an example of falsification, which is the willful perversion of facts and includes such behavior as lying, distorting and paltering.

There’s no shortage of penalties for falsification

When anyone falsifies information about themselves, it is a serious matter, as it is obviously misleading, deceptive and reflects on your trustworthiness. But it is extremely serious when a nurse does this.

State boards of nursing can initiate professional disciplinary proceedings against a nurse when falsification occurs, including in cases when unprofessional conduct is likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public; using false, deceptive or fraudulent statements in any record in connection with a nurse’s practice; practicing beyond the scope of one’s practice; and violating state or federal laws, rules and regulations governing controlled substances. In most states, disciplinary actions include a reprimand, censure, probation, suspension or revocation of the nurse’s license.

“When anyone falsifies information about themselves, it is a serious matter, as it is obviously misleading, deceptive and reflects on your trustworthiness. But it is extremely serious when a nurse does this.”

Unfortunately, falsification of documents in nursing is not a new phenomenon. A 2012 article in the Journal of Nursing Regulation by Latrina Gibbs McClenton, discusses two cases of falsification of licensure applications by two separate candidates applying for RN licensure in Mississippi. McClenton identifies falsification in such instances as a result of “deception or omission” and includes failure to disclose a criminal history, listing or claiming an educational degree that the applicant does not possess, and using personal information taken from another to apply for licensure.

Falsification by nurses also occurs in other situations. The Texas Board of Nursing, in its publication “Behavior Involving Lying and Falsification,” gives examples such when an individual pretends to be a nurse or when a nurse licensee may represent that he or she has a “broader scope of practice” than is actually authorized by his or her license. These individuals are viewed by the board as nurse imposters.

Perhaps the most troubling instances of falsification by nurses is when they occur in relation to patient care. I discussed one such circumstance in Brent’s Law on Sept. 17, 2012, when a hospice nurse practitioner misdated her visits. Although the nurse practitioner’s rationale was that she didn’t remember the dates and probably “just signed the wrong day,” it is difficult to accept her lack of memory of the visits when she then adds that she probably used the wrong dates. If there is no memory of the visits, no date would have been accurate, and the issue of falsification is raised as the real culprit.

“Falsification by nurses is not only unethical, it shatters legal parameters. Initially, criminal charges on the state or federal level may be brought against the nurse.”

Other examples of nurse falsification with patient care matters include inaccurate entries; medications and treatments documented as being given when they are not; covering up bad outcomes; and staff simply documenting in charts “en masse,” not knowing for sure whether what is being recorded is accurate (“Falsified Patient Records Are Untold Story of California Nursing Home Care,”  California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform).

Falsification by nurses is not only unethical, it shatters legal parameters. Initially, criminal charges on the state or federal level may be brought against the nurse. These charges include fraud (see “Five Years In Prison For Miami VA Nurse Who Falsified Patient’s Record” at: ), falsifying business records, criminal possession of a controlled substance, practicing nursing without a license, and petit larceny.

If your falsification involves a felony conviction relating to a controlled substance or a misdemeanor conviction relating to healthcare fraud, you may be excluded from working in any Medicare or Medicaid facility by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And boards of nursing report disciplinary actions against nurses to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The data bank is used by organizations to determine licensing, credentialing, privileging or employment decisions.

Falsification can end your career or even land you in jail. Two words sum whether you should be accepting of falsification by other nurses or practice it yourself: Not ever.

Courses Related to ‘Maintaining Ethical and Legal Standards as a Nurse’

60207: Texas Nursing Jurisprudence and Ethics (2 contact hrs)

The goal of this continuing education module is to provide Texas nurse licensees, and those who are interested in being licensed in Texas, with an introduction to the Texas Nursing Practice Act and Rules. In addition, ethical principles and six grounds for discipline of nurses will be discussed.

CE548: Protect Yourself (1.00 contact hr)

This module will enhance nurses’ knowledge of nurse practice acts and how they define professional practice and nurses’ rights and responsibilities as practitioners. It includes information on provisions included in most nurse practice acts and types of violations included and the rights afforded the nurse licensee in most nurse practice acts.


Nancy Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation, and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 40 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. 


  1. Avatar
    Nurse Beth June 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing. It’s a good reminder to nurses to always be truthful. Nothing good can come from falsification.

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    Debbie June 19, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    It’s hard to believe that this fraudulent behavior still persists!

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      Kia March 19, 2023 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      Do you consider an extra b accidentally added to someone’s last name, but the license number remained the same, falsifying?

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    maryjane June 20, 2017 at 7:14 am - Reply

    nice information.

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    Erin July 21, 2018 at 12:56 am - Reply

    This is really good information that I will be passing on to two people that I know hat are falsifying their credentials and education on LinkedIn with all of their followers, employers, and the world to see. I don’t understand it. These people have an exemplary history otherwise – career-wise and educational. Why lie?

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    Sheila Adam October 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    I am aware of a 2 yr RN who brags of being a BSN. Does this fall into the fraudulent law catagory?

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    Cynthia November 16, 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

    I know of a nurse who lying about place of residency…says lives in Ohio to keep licenses there and actually resides in Virginia…What do you do in this case?

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      DJ December 12, 2018 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      A nurse does not have to reside in the state in which they are licensed, but they are required to be licensed in the state in which they are employed as a nurse. Licensure boards do require the licensee to maintain current address and contact information.

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      Sheila February 1, 2022 at 1:57 am - Reply

      I am a LPN and work in a nursing home,my Don and administration had another nurse document on patient and forged my signature to it ,what can I do?

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    Regina Pazzaglia December 19, 2018 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    If reported to Medicare is there a way to ever be able to work in Medicare/ medcaid facility?

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    Meeehhhlla January 21, 2019 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Can someone give me an advice? I was fired recently during my orientation because of hospital rules of conduct •falsification of employment records of failure to disclose my brother snd sis inlaw that are currently working in the same hospital. They said probationary terminated. Can i lose my RN license for that? What should I do?

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    Carolyn April 28, 2019 at 2:42 am - Reply

    I am currently working in a small hospital in upstate ny. Our clinical coordinator just recently received a new I’d badge and I noticed it said BS on it and I asked her about it. Her comment was that someone else had noticed it too .she admitted to me that she didn’t have a BS and continues to wear the badge for over a month now,. She works very closely every day with the Director of our department who has to be aware of it also. I don’t know what to do. It’s devastating to me that no one else has said anything. I’ve been a nurse in my department for 32 years.

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    Linda nebben May 18, 2019 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    My administrator signs bsn,she’s not a nurse. When asked about this she said she has a bsn,in nutrition

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    Niki June 1, 2019 at 4:17 pm - Reply


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    Debbie August 27, 2020 at 10:45 am - Reply

    What happens to a nurse when they falsified records? My father is to be offered a drink of water at 10 AM 3 PM and 7 PM. The nurse checked it off as though he got his water but never brought it to him, two weeks later she never checked it nor did she even offer him his water. I did report it to the DON and nothing was said what do I do ?

    • Sallie Jimenez
      Sallie Jimenez September 1, 2020 at 10:03 am - Reply

      Hello Debbie,
      I suggest you follow up with the director of nursing via phone and email. If you do not get a response or do not get a response that addresses your concerns and what is being done about them, you can contact the DON’s supervisor, which can be a vp of nursing, a chief nursing officer or a CEO. It is important that your concerns about your father are addressed, that the nurse leaders document these concerns and how they addressed them, and that you are aware of how they addressed them.

      Best wishes for you and you and your father.

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      Bee Tee February 2, 2023 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      I know at least two people with fake RN licenses. How do you report this?

      • Sallie Jimenez
        Sallie Jimenez February 7, 2023 at 5:18 pm - Reply

        Hello Bee Tee,

        You can contact the Board of Nursing in your state, if you suspect someone is fraudulently practicing as an RN. Here’s a link to the NCSBN’s website, where you’ll find a link to the state Boards of Nursing.

        Thank you for your question.

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    Elle December 13, 2020 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Can a nurse’s license be in jeopardy if she lies under oath to protect her boyfriend when testifying as an RN? She specifically stated that documentation does not change at all by facility because it is federally mandated so all documentation is always the same for medical notes. She was also testifying in a state other than which she holds her license.

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    Larissa Rojas March 30, 2022 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    My CNA was revoked in 2021 in Texas. I’ve been under a hardship ever since then. Come to find out in 2022 I’m a victim of identity theft/fraud and it is affecting my tax refunds and my TDHS benefits. I know that I can prove my identity and I know it will help me prove that the revocation issued was due to my identity being stolen.

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    Diana May 14, 2022 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    I have a nurse manager who over the phone told me she forged my signature “initials” in the narcotic count books. So when I went back the next day – there they were. Totally not my initials it’s like night and day. She did mention to me “it’s only on days I knew you were there.” That is also false. Guess our company gets fined per signature a nurse doesn’t sign. But what scared me is I wasn’t even there for some of them, and even if I WAS there that day it doesn’t mean I passed medication that day so I work with another nurse so we rotate. What do I do? I know it’s wrong.

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    Harinder Kumar MD November 29, 2022 at 6:06 am - Reply

    One nurse who never worked for me gave my reference for job not signed by me. Is that legal?

  17. Avatar
    Hailey Hariis December 29, 2022 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    All states require that you complete a nursing program before getting a license. Check it here https://licenselookup.org/state-licenses/

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