Nursing Degree Scandal and Its Complex Implications

This article is reprinted from the Speak Out Now healthcare newsletter at Kaiser and Highland Hospitals in Oakland, CA.

Last week 25 people were arrested and charged in connection with the sale of 7,600 fraudulent nursing degrees in what is being dubbed “Operation Nightingale.” The scheme involved the selling of fake nursing diplomas and transcripts through three accredited Florida-based nursing schools. Of the 7,600 degrees sold, about 2,400 people passed the nurses licensing exam, and were eligible for employment in healthcare facilities. Officials say they have not learned of any harm to patients caused by those holding fraudulent diplomas, but are working to ensure they no longer provide care.

At this moment, none of the people who purchased these fake degrees are being criminally charged, only administrators of nursing schools and several test preparation academies. Some nurses have taken issue with this, and say hospitals and nursing regulatory boards are not investigating because they do not want to face liabilities for employing unlicensed healthcare workers.

People may have resorted to this scam because these documents allowed them access to healthcare employment without facing a mountain of student debt. In addition, this was a way for scammers to profit off of a nursing shortage that was exacerbated by the exhausting conditions of the pandemic. The nursing shortage may have also been a factor in why this scam was able to fly under the radar for so long.

Ultimately, this is another example of what some working class people feel they must resort to under the dire conditions of the capitalist system, and how ready profiteers are to exploit their need for work.