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Outside audit of nursing board set

First phase will look at monitoring program

 A two-part audit of the Oregon State Board of Nursing will begin this week. In April the board voted to hire an outside auditor, and the consulting group Talbot, Korvola and Warwick has been selected to look into the board's nurse monitoring program. Auditors also will investigate how the board disciplines nurses who are the subjects of complaints.

   The Portland Tribune ran a series of stories in March detailing irregularities in the board's policies. The Tribune investigation revealed that some participants in the monitoring program, which allows nurses with drug and alcohol addictions to continue working while they seek treatment, remained on their jobs despite repeated relapses and, in some cases, mistreatment of patients.

   Talbot, Korvola and Warwick has never previously worked for the board of nursing, but it has conducted audits for the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners, which oversees the state's physicians.

   Brad Rafish, who will conduct the audit for Talbot, Korvola and Warwick, said he will be given access to confidential case files but that his reports will not reveal the names of nurses or patients in those files. He also will interview complainants from board discipline cases, as well as board members and staff.

   As Rafish commences his audit, Pete Shepherd, Oregon's deputy attorney general, continues to interview people involved with the board of nursing. Shepherd will make a presentation about the board to the Oregon Senate Committee on Public Health in September. That committee began its own hearings into the board of nursing following the Tribune's investigation.

   Joan Bouchard, executive director of the board of nursing, said the board had never previously performed an audit of its operations. 'The board is willing to look and see if we're doing things right and if there's something we can do better,' she said.

   Bouchard said she expects Rafish to present his findings to the board at the end of August.