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Department of Labor SEPTEMBER 2006

Office of Inspector General

Office of Audit
OWCP: Licensing and Confidentiality
Procedures for Contract Nurses


Highlights of Report Number: 02-06-207-04-431, to OWCP had procedures in place requiring
the Assistant Secretary for Employment Standards verification of nurse licenses during contracting
Administration and hiring. However, these procedures did not
require periodic review to ensure that licenses
WHY READ THE REPORT were renewed and in good standing. Rather,
OWCP policy was to leave the periodic review
In 2005, the Office of Workers Compensation process to the discretion of the individual DO.
Programs (OWCP) reported contract nurses Consistent license verification can reduce
handled 17,186 cases and were able to have OWCP’s risk of not timely identifying license
8,088 workers return to work. Contract nurses restrictions or the failure to renew licenses.
are assigned to newly injured workers to obtain
information, evaluate the level of disability, and OWCP’s policy requires the claimant to be
notify District Offices (DOs) of pending surgery responsible for notifying medical providers when
or prolonged recovery. Contract nurses also a contract nurse should or should not receive
coordinate medical care and return-to-work medical information. However, OWCP
issues, and can transfer cases for vocational communications with claimants do not state the
rehabilitation or more aggressive medical claimant’s level of responsibility for notifying
intervention. medical providers regarding nurse access to
medical information and claimants were not
WHY OIG DID THE AUDIT notified when contract nurses were no longer
actively assigned the claim. As a result, contract
This audit was conducted in response to a nurses may unnecessarily receive access to
complaint from a former OWCP contract nurse confidential medical records.
whose allegations included noncompliance with
nurse licensure policies and unnecessary WHAT OIG RECOMMENDED
access to confidential medical records. Our
audit was limited to examining the OWCP The OIG recommended the Assistant Secretary
procedures used to verify contract nurse for Employment Standards:
licensure and also the procedures that restrict
contract nurse access to confidential medical 1. Establish and implement policies and
records. Our objectives were to determine if: (1) procedures for verification of licenses to
OWCP license verification procedures were determine renewal and good standing at
adequate for contract nurses; and (2) OWCP regular intervals for its contract nurses.
procedures restricting contract nurse access to
confidential medical records were adequate. 2. Establish practices to clearly and
Our audit period was January 1, 2003, through consistently communicate with claimants
December 31, 2005. delineating their responsibilities so that
contract nurses do not have unnecessary
READ THE FULL REPORT access to confidential medical records.

To view the report, including the scope, In her response to the draft report, the Assistant
methodology and agency response, go to: Secretary for Employment Standards concurred
with the findings and recommendations. She stated that procedures will be developed by
6/02-06-207-04-431.pdf October 31, 2006.