LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a half-million-dollar settlement with the operator of a sham nursing school in Los Angeles that created "the illusion it was training future nurses" by pretending to offer an accredited nursing program and tricking graduates into believing they had qualified to become registered nurses.
As many as 300 students paid $20,000 each to enroll and attend classes at RN Learning Center, which advertised its fast-track program for earning a bachelor of science degree in nursing in less than two years.
"By creating the illusion it was training future registered nurses," Brown said, "the school destroyed the aspirations of hundreds of students who also lost thousands of dollars in wasted tuition. The school will shut its doors today and pay back its former students as fully as it can."
In the settlement negotiated by Brown's office on behalf of the Board of Registered Nursing, Junelou Chalico Enterina, owner and operator of RN Learning Center, which operated on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, agreed to close his business and pay victims restitution of $500,000. He also agreed never again to open a nursing school in California.
The board, which is the state agency that oversees the practice and education of nurses, believes no student of RN Learning Center was able to use her degree to qualify for the state's nursing exam or become a registered nurse. However, the board is contacting every medical facility in the state to warn about unaccredited schools such as RN Learning Center.
The settlement today concludes a board investigation that began in early 2007. Despite purporting to be a nursing school, RN Learning Center never applied to the nursing board to obtain accreditation as a school of nursing. Three years ago, the board ordered the school to close. It also disciplined two licensed registered nurses associated with the school and posted a notice on its website warning prospective students that unaccredited schools were operating in California.
Despite the scrutiny, RN Learning Center continued to operate, targeting mostly Filipino-Americans who already worked in the health field. The school's marketing materials promised the program would, "Advance Your Education. Increase Your Earnings. Secure Your Financial Future." Just as they would in a real nursing school, students took classes in anatomy, microbiology and learned to do sutures. They traveled to the Philippines for a month of clinical study in hospitals and prisons, and attended classes at a foreign nursing school that also had not been approved by California's board.
RN Learning Center kept the deception going by holding formal graduation ceremonies. About 50 of its students applied to the nursing board to take the National Council Licensing Examination, which qualifies nursing school graduates to become licensed registered nurses. The students submitted transcripts that were declared fraudulent, so they were unable to meet the eligibility requirements and were not allowed to take the licensing exam. Because RN Learning Center was unlicensed, none of the course work taken there can be counted toward completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
One student, Faith, described how she applied to RN Learning Center because the class schedule allowed her to also work and juggle childcare. She attended classes for two years, driving 240 miles twice a week from Bakersfield to Los Angeles with her two children. When she raised questions, such as asking about the school's lack of clinical training, the staff reassured her. "My children, ex-husband, brother, friends and everyone I worked with, can attest to my commitment and sacrifice I made to complete this program," she said in a declaration. "We the students have lost a lot."
If you were a nursing student of RN Learning Center, please contact the Attorney General's Office at (213) 897-2000. For more information about the California Board of Registered Nursing, please see http://www.rn.ca.gov/