Prosecutors and medical boards all over the country are still searching for the thousands of individuals with fake nursing degrees as part of Operation Nightingale, which involved the selling of some 7,600 phony degrees from three now-closed nursing schools in Southern Florida. The FBI is working with local law enforcement to bring anyone with a fake degree to justice, while nursing board officials are trying to stop these individuals from practicing medicine.
But Eric Ly, the co-founder of LinkedIn and the medical background check company KarmaCheck, says people lie on job applications all the time.
“It’s really not surprising at all,” he recently told Becker’s Hospital Review. He explained that around 44% of the information listed on LinkedIn is likely untrue. People tend to indulge or simply make up important details such as where they work, what position they hold, and how long they’ve been there.
But these lies can be particularly dangerous when they are used to gain employment in the healthcare industry.
“In the case of healthcare, credentials are not a light matter,” he said. “It is a life and death situation where the clinician is tending to people’s health and well-being, and if they are not qualified to perform their duties, that really puts people in danger.”
But if people in other industries are lying about their credentials to get jobs, why should we expect healthcare to be any different?
Some experts believe the business of selling fake degrees has become a multibillion dollar industry. These are known as degree mills. Some blatantly sell degrees or transcripts from legitimate schools. Other mills will have students complete assignments or papers but they will still provide the degree after a shorter period of time compared to the work and time that would go into obtaining a degree from a legitimate institution.
This can happen more often than you might think.
According to a 2004 study from the Government Accountability Office, 463 federal employees received degrees from alleged mills. Online schools and virtual learning opportunities have only made the problem worse in recent years.
“A moderately skilled web designer can very easily and quickly create a home page for a fraudulent school with the look and feel of a home page of a legitimate school,” says the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. “Often, it is difficult if not impossible to track down the individuals responsible for perpetrating the fraud, and even if they were to be located, they could very well be operating from some location outside the jurisdiction of state or U.S. laws.”
That’s why Ly and his colleagues created KarmaCheck, a background check company that he describes as a more “efficient, scalable” way to verify the accuracy of an applicant’s background before they are employed. The app primarily caters to professionals who work in the healthcare industry.
The ongoing staff shortages have only fueled the need for speedy and accurate background checks. He says hospitals and companies need to implement vetting systems that can work at scale while reducing the amount of time it takes to fill vacancies.
“In this day and age with an increase in power going back to the candidate, it’s more important to provide a positive experience for them while ensuring there’s accuracy,” Ly said.
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