The state nursing board is accusing five nurses of fraud and seeking to revoke their licenses for operating a school in Orange County and the Philippines that purported to prepare students to be registered nurses in California.
While students of Nightingale International California were led to believe their training would prepare them for nursing jobs, records say, the school was not approved by the nursing board or accredited. That means students who took classes from Nightingale were not allowed to take a state licensing exam and must repeat their coursework before seeking licensure, records show.
In at least one recent case, the nursing board worked with the state attorney general to shut down a sham school and get restitution for victims. But in this case, by the time board investigators went to the Garden Grove school in October 2010, they found an empty office, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the nursing board.
He said the school operated from at least 2007 to 2010, and investigators do not know how many students went through the courses.
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“The individuals involved have not been cooperating with the investigation,” he said.
One student who complained to the Better Business Bureau about the school in 2009 apparently got a $16,000 refund from the school for himself and his wife.
According to accusations filed against the nurses in December and February, Nightingale entered into agreements with two schools in the Philippines to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Nightingale advertised pre-licensure nursing courses with instruction in Garden Grove and hands-on experience in the Philippines. But students who took the courses discovered that they were not eligible to take the state licensure exam.
The Board of Registered Nursing filed accusations against the licenses of Nightingale board members Lorelie Malate [PDF], vice president of operations and a contact for students; Maria Teresa Avila Ibarra [PDF], vice president of clinical compliance; Hector Cascalla [PDF], vice president of operations, business and finance and a school instructor; Bella Gorospe [PDF], vice president of operations, sales and marketing; and Avery Malate [PDF], president and chief executive.
An accusation against Ibarra says she “distributed caps and pins at (Nightingale) ‘graduation’ ceremonies” and signed certificates of excellence given to students.
Another against Gorospe says she was an investor in Nightingale and expected an 8 percent share in profits. An accusation against Avery Malate says he promised students they would be eligible to take the licensing exam in California.
Avery Malate said he had not been involved in the school for two and a half years and referred California Watch to attorney Frederick Ray, who declined to comment. The other nurses could not be reached.
Nightingale has not been the only school accused of offering students an education that did not lead to a nursing license. In August 2010, the California attorney general’s office reached a settlement with the operator of a nursing school that also was unaccredited. About 300 students paid $20,000 to take classes at the RN Learning Center in Los Angeles, only to learn they were not eligible to take the nurse licensing exam, records show.
In that case, the school owner, Junelou Chalico Enterina, agreed to pay students $500,000 in restitution and never open a nursing school in California.
A pending bill carried by state Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, would give the nursing board authority to issue a cease-and-desist order to a nursing school that’s not approved by the board. The bill would require the board to notify the attorney general’s office of any such schools.