State Computer Problems Strand Nursing Graduates without Licenses

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Certification of registered nurses in California, a process which used to take as little as three days, is taking three months and screwing up the lives of graduates who thought they would hit the ground running when school was over.

The culprit is—wait for it, wait for it—an errant state computer system. This one is called BreEZe, but apparently the new Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) system isn’t as easy for state workers to use as its name implies.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 4,000 applications for nursing certification are lying on desks at the Board of Registered Nursing because the new system, booted up last October and designed to handle online data for 37 licensing boards and bureaus, isn’t performing as advertised. Some estimates go as high as 6,000.

Nine agencies are already using BreEZe, but the Times didn’t say how they were faring. The staff is typing information into the $52-million system that was designed to accept online data, and the board is telling applicants not to even bother asking for a response before 90 days.

“Due to circumstances beyond the control of the Board of Registered Nursing, we are experiencing some delays in processing applications,” its homepage proclaims.

Last week, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to audit BreEZe and find out what the problem is. But the Consumer Affairs department is already pointing a finger at employees. Department spokesman Russ Heimerich told the Sacramento Bee they have been slow to adapt to the new system: It’s like “changing your golf swing. It’s like muscle memory,” he said.

While employees tone up their grey matter, the department is adding bodies to assist in processing the applications. At least 15 people have been shifted to the nursing board to help the 18 employees already slogging away.

California government is no stranger to computer problems, whether issues of hardware, software or humankind.

Thousands of checks for jobless people last year were screwed up by new software at the Employment Development Department (EDD). A new payroll system for In-Home Support Services workers was deemed an “unmitigated disaster” in 2012 and the court system is just beginning to grapple with the demise of its $1 billion California Court Case Management System (CCMS). The state spent $500 million on a system linking all 58 Superior Courts with law enforcement, the public and 70 different computers systems, before finally cutting it loose. 

California has close to 400,000 registered nurses, according to the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care, and students who graduated in December are not happy they haven’t joined them in the workplace. “I’ve been offered a position, but unfortunately without our license, both my supervisor and I are stuck in a hard place, and we’re just playing the waiting game,” San Joaquin Delta College graduate Shauntee Rutter told CBS Sacramento.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

New Computer System’s Trouble Starts with State Workers, Officials Say (by Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

Computer System Upgrades Delay Licensing for Nursing Graduates (by Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times)

New Nurses Can’t Get Jobs with Online Application System Delays (by Maria Medina, CBS Sacramento)

Los Angeles, Orange Counties Grapple with Shortage of Nursing Instructors (by Stephanie Stephens, California Healthline)

California Nurses Facts and Figures (California Health Care Foundation) (pdf)

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