Nurse impersonator case underlines dangers of background check lapses

Nursing home administrations and human resources must remain vigilant on background checks for
prospective staff even amid record turnover, a recent case in South Carolina demonstrates.
Authorities arrested a 37-year-old woman for seven counts of neglect of a vulnerable adult; five counts
of unlicensed practice as a registered nurse; one count of financial identity fraud to obtain
employment; and one count of obtaining signature or property under false pretenses.
Alyssa Beth Steele allegedly practiced medicine as a registered nurse without a license at seven
nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Anderson, Greenville and Pickens counties, according to
a statement from the South Carolina Attorney General’s office.

In such cases, facilities can be liable for failing to secure their premises, Kimberly Fox of healthcare
data firm GHX Vendormate told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Monday.
“Facilities could be sued and held liable depending on the circumstances,” Fox said. “Facilities can
also be in jeopardy with the state department of health and be at risk of losing accreditation.”
Fox said there are several steps administrators and staff can tackle to safeguard their premises.
“Healthcare facilities seeking to help prevent people from impersonating staff and gaining entry to the
building require a robust vendor and visitor management program,” she said. “For example, restrict
the number of entrances that can be used in a facility and utilize technology such as an integrated
mobile app and kiosk and security staff to screen and badge every entrant to the facility, including

Fox added that it is also best practice for a facility to require certain documents be submitted by staff
and visitors, such as vaccination records, copies of driver’s licenses, copies of relevant Board
certifications or hospital privileges, and that a document verification team routinely reviews and
verifies the submitted documents. 
“This should be coupled with regular sanction and exclusion checks to add another layer of protection
and screening,” Fox said. “If someone is suspected of being an impostor, outside law enforcement
should be engaged.”

Although its unclear whether or how Steele passed a background check, authorities in the South
Carolina case said Steele allegedly used a State of Georgia Board of Nursing license number
belonging to someone else to gain employment as a registered nurse in the seven facilities between
Jan. 15, 2020, and Jan. 19, 2022.
“At no time during this period did Steele have the certifications, qualifications or training required of a
registered nurse,” the AG’s office said. “By holding herself out as having credentials she did not
possess, Steele’s conduct resulted in a failure to provide adequate medical care and services to
vulnerable adults and presented a substantial risk of causing physical or mental injuries to the
residents under her care.”

All seven facilities cooperated fully with investigators, the statement noted.