December 3, 2020 \ Comments by PSNA President Tarik Khan
Good morning. I am grateful for the opportunity to address the Board. My name is Tarik Khan and I’m a working Nurse Practitioner in the Commonwealth and the elected President of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA), the professional nursing association representing the nearly a quarter million registered nurses in Pennsylvania. I lecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where I am completing my PhD. I’m here today to state that PSNA is opposed to the most recent list of crimes as proposed by the Board pursuant to Act 53 of 2020. The Board’s current list of crimes is neither equitable nor are many of the crimes directly related to the practice of the profession.
It is the belief of PSNA and our allies that the Board, in publishing the list in its current form, has misinterpreted the intent of Act 53. Senator John DiSanto, the prime sponsor of the legislation, wrote in a memo that the purpose of his bill was to “require that boards only withhold a license for convictions which are directly related to the practice of the occupation.” With this in mind, PSNA encourages the Board to consider that crimes such as writing bad checks or “retail theft” are neither directly related to the profession nor remotely related to nursing.
- Unlawful possession of retail or library theft instruments,
- Theft of unpublished dramas and musical compositions, or
- Threatening to use weapons of mass destruction
Using this list as a platform to penalize nurses who are assisting patients exercising their legal right to choose is unconscionable.
Another concerning aspect of establishing this process has been that our colleagues who are licensed under the State Board of Medicine are being held to a different set of standards despite the fact that the nature of our work is similar.
Applicants for licenses under the State Board of Medicine could be held responsible for 57 crimes; nurses applying for licensure under the State Board of Nursing face a list of 158 crimes. The lists for the State Boards of Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, and Nursing should be equitable due to the similar nature of our work. Applicants for licenses under the State Board of Nursing should not be held to a different standard for offenses than their colleagues seeking licensure from the State Board of Medicine.
What was commented about nurses’ ability to steal from patients can easily be said about allopathic and osteopathic physicians in a home visiting program.
During a pandemic when nurses are desperately in need and have consistently been heroic in selflessly serving our most vulnerable patients, we believe that policies that serve limiting the ability of nurses to work in the Commonwealth due to unrelated transgressions would cause harm. I think it’s also worth noting that if we are looking at opening the flood gates of offenses to block nurses from practicing in the Commonwealth, as a person of color and in time of racial reckoning, I think it’s important that we acknowledge that the justice is not applied equally in the U.S. Black Americans are 5 times more likely be arrested than whites due to racism in our criminal justice system. These list of crimes would clearly, disproportionately affect nurses of color in our Commonwealth, particularly African American RNs.
While the initial list of crimes proposed by this Board is concerning, there is still an opportunity to make this right. PSNA, PA-ACNM, and PCNP have prepared a proposed list of crimes similar to the lists produced by the Medical and Osteopathic Boards. We encourage this Board to create a subcommittee, comprised of both stakeholders and Board members, to collaborate with the Commonwealth’s nursing organizations on a list of crimes that directly relate to the profession of nursing and serving patients. We hope that the Board will work with nursing stakeholders on this issue and others in the future.