New Jersey's two senators today called for congressional hearings on the nationwide system of screening healthcare professionals in the wake of the homicides of as many as 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania hospitals by a nurse. Charles Cullen's "confessed killing spree ripped open shocking flaws in the nation's system of screening healthcare professions," Democratic Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg said in a written statement. They asked the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to investigate the case and possible federal responses, noting that Cullen had been fired by five hospitals and one nursing home, but reference checks failed to stop him from getting new jobs. They charged that there is no national forum for reporting actions taken against nurses and that existing reporting requirements are voluntary and nonenforceable. Corzine suggested the National Practitioner Data Bank needs to be revamped to include nurses as well as doctors and providers and employers should be required to report professional review actions, including reasons for dismissal from employment. "The story of Charles Cullen is a tragedy and an outrage. It's a case of complete and utter failure of the healthcare system," Corzine said. To find out more about the Cullen case, see this week's Modern Healthcare story, "Killer credentials." -- by Cinda Becker
N.J. senators call for nurse-screening system
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