MY VIEW • New nursing board chairman won’t fix problem
Despite the shakeup and resignation of Joan Bouchard, former Oregon State Board of Nursing executive director, along with the firing of Kim Cobrain, board program executive, we’ve still only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the problems within the board. The last time substantial change occurred was in fall 2006, when the state conducted an audit of the nursing board. Sadly, with the retention of the current board — under the new leadership of Jim McDonald as the president — the board culture remains one that seeks to preserve the public image of nursing at all costs, even if it means ignoring public safety. There is an air of arrogance, entitlement and a “we know what is best” attitude. I previously have served with McDonald on a stakeholder group looking at the revision of the rules surrounding the nurse monitoring program. It was obvious from his comments, gestures and demeanor that he was not open to any discussions regarding that program being outside the control of the board. In fact, he literally shut down any further discussions on the subject. Several stakeholders, myself included, walked out of the meeting. I find it hard to imagine that Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office was not aware of the extent of the problems within the board. Families, advocates and the Portland Tribune have for years brought forth issues of substance abuse, insufficient oversight of the nurse monitoring program and the failure to complete board investigations. I also find it troubling that the nursing board was unaware of its staff’s poor performance, since complaints come directly to the board and then are assigned to an investigator. As a regulatory board, follow-up is mandatory to ensure public safety. The fact that the board meets only five times annually does not absolve it of culpability. Its primary function is to encourage the preservation of public safety within the nursing field and to respond to complaints in a timely manner. It is time for the governor to remove the current board members and replace them with a new team emphasizing public safety. Unless this is done, it will be business as usual under the leadership of Jim McDonald. Dolores Hubert is a senior advocate and resides in Northeast Portland.