A group in Los Angeles launched a campaign to embarrass the Board of Registered Nursing for approving continuing education classes that teach the art of moving furniture, the practice of seeing connections in meaningless data and, of course, the use of Chinese Shyu, or snake oil.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the board’s repeated approval of a continuing education provider affiliated with a nursing school that the board’s own supervisor called “phony” and a rip-off.
A report released by the nursing board [PDF] this week shed further light on the problem, revealing that the board performed zero audits on continuing education providers from 2006 to 2010, all of the years displayed in a chart looking at continuing education program audits.
Nurses are required to take 30 hours of continuing education courses every two years, and the board holds the responsibility of deciding who can and cannot provide such training. Board staff audit nurses to see if they are taking the required classes, but they have not in recent years gone knocking on educator's doors.
Granted, the report shows incredible strides by the board. Spurred by a series of exposes by ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber, the board has dramatically decreased the amount of time it takes to investigate questionable nurses. It has also stepped up its enforcement of sanctions against nurses who are trouble with the law or other nursing boards across the country.
However, in the Sunset Review Report [PDF] issued this week, the board expressed little urgency about improving the quality of continuing education courses or ensuring that the state's 3,300 certified providers are running a legitimate operation:
Assessing continued competence is a difficult and complex national issue facing all professional healing arts licensing boards. … The BRN (Board of Registered Nurses) will review the resultant evidence-based approaches that emerge from the research and discussions and evaluate the approaches related to continuing education that are appropriate.
The stance is one that the Los Angeles chapter of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry railed against in a treatise written about lax education standards nearly a year ago.
The group’s leaders wrote about their surprise to learn that an organization specializing in the manipulation of chakras and auras was certified as an educator tasked with keeping registered nurses up to date on their skills and best practices.
The group said it “had a frustrating series of exchanges with the nursing board” and testified about the troubling curriculum at a board meeting.
Unsatisfied, leaders of the skeptics group “decided to see for ourselves just how lax California’s CEU provider application process really is.”
Here’s a summary of the curriculum they devised and submitted for approval (parenthetical material was not submitted in the application, presumably):
Möbel Kinesiology (Möbel is the German word for furniture, so möbel kinesiology is, essentially, furniture moving.)
Feng Shui (a practice in which a structure or site is chosen or configured so as to harmonize with its qi, or life energy)
Chinese Shyu (translation: snake oil)
Vapor and Reflective Surfaces (another way to say smoke and mirrors)
Apophenia (the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data)
Anthropomancy (divination through human entrails)
Canupiary Flexibility (The word canupiary exists in no language we could find. We made it up.)
The application was a success: “CFI-Care was certified as Continuing Education Provider #15166 on August 28, 2008. We were officially in the for-profit business of teaching wacky ideas to professional nurses,” the CSI article says.
The group reports that it soon issued a press release and held a Feng Shui class, “to embarrass the CBRN into recognizing the flaws in its continuing education system.”
Soon afterward, however, the nursing board’s then-executive officer wrote to the group, saying its certification to teach nurses has been “issued in error.”
As for the alternative healing group that piqued CSI's curiosity in the first place? They appear to still have a license to teach nurses about chakras and auras.