A joint investigation by the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization found that some nurses -- about 115 -- were only flagged by the state agency after they racked up three or more criminal convictions. Twenty-four nurses had at least five, according to the newspaper.
Any new regulations would have to be approved by the state's Office of Administrative Law, said Carrie Lopez, director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees more than 30 professional licensing agencies.
The Board of Registered Nursing must also develop emergency regulations to obtain fingerprints from all nurses licensed before 1990. Lopez anticipated all nurses who have not been fingerprinted will have to do so when renewing after March 1.
"We are taking swift action to provide additional consumer protections through all of our boards, including the Board of Registered Nursing," she said in a statement earlier this week.
At least one nurse is currently in prison; another was able to renew his license from there for years after being convicted of attempted murder.
The California Nurses Association, the union representing about 65,000 nurses in the state, said this week that it supports criminal checks for all nurses.
"We have always supported background checks on healthcare workers," said Jill Furillo, the union's Southern California director. "There should be uniform standards. It sounds to me like there have not been," she said.
California licenses 343,000 active registered nurses, the largest number in the nation.