Practical nurse gets prison for faked credentials

Assuming RN's identity, she worked at Mercy, VA

July 10, 2003|By David Kohn | David Kohn,SUN STAFF

A Bowie woman who impersonated a registered nurse while working at two Baltimore hospitals has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

In handing down the penalty Tuesday, Baltimore Circuit Judge Lynn K. Stewart told Florence Ngwe Igwacho, 40, that she preyed on "vulnerable and helpless people." In May, Igwacho pleaded guilty to identity fraud and practicing registered nursing without a license.

Prosecutors, investigators and hospital officials said Igwacho did not appear to have caused any injuries or deaths at the two hospitals - Mercy Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore.

"We had no incidents related to having this person on the medical floor," said Susan MacMillan, vice president of patient care at Mercy. She said that after the fraud was discovered, the hospital did a "thorough review" to see whether Igwacho had caused any harm.

Igwacho, a Cameroon native, is a licensed practical nurse in Washington, D.C., but not a registered nurse.

LPNs typically have one year of training, compared with two to four for RNs, according to Karen Skinner, executive director of the District of Columbia's nursing board.

From November 2001 to last August, Igwacho worked 19 shifts at Mercy and 67 at the VA hospital. According to investigators and hospital officials, she worked primarily on what is known as the medical-surgical floor.

To perpetrate the scheme, Igwacho stole the identity of an acquaintance, Karen Awah, also from Cameroon, who is a registered nurse in Washington.

The fraud was discovered Aug. 1 when a Mercy nurse on Army Reserve duty at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington met the real Karen Awah, recognized the name and alerted Mercy officials.

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