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Nurse's history remained in the dark

If Bruce Alan Young had been an alcoholic or a child abuser or even a petty thief, Citrus Memorial Hospital could have found out.

When nurses with such problems are discovered, they must go before the state Board of Nursing.

If the board thinks the problem is serious enough, it takes disciplinary action. That gets logged on a computer record used for background checks for potential employers.

But Young, 45, didn't have any of those problems. Instead, he was accused of having sex with a student while a teacher at Countryside High School in Clearwater.

The accusation concerned the board enough to order him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for sexual deviancy before he received his license. But not enough to log it in the computer.

"As far as we're concerned, if he passed the exam, he was free and in the clear," said board business manager Mike Grant.

News of the psychiatric evaluation came to light in a class-action lawsuit filed last week on behalf of women who fear they may have been assaulted by Young, the former Citrus Memorial nurse charged with drugging and raping five women.

The board ordered Young to undergo the evaluation in February 1990, apparently after Young informed the panel of the March 1988 revocation of his teaching license.

Young passed the exam soon after the order, according to a letter sent to him by Judie K. Ritter, executive director of the board.

"On March 28, 1990, the chairman of the board and I have determined that your psychological evaluation was satisfactory," Ritter writes in the May 1 letter.

That determination ensured that no employer would have access to information about the exam or the incident that prompted it, at least through Board of Nursing records.

Instead, the exam and the order were placed in a file separate from Young's nursing license file.

Even if a prospective employer had asked to see previous complaints against him _ a request that would have turned up an alcoholic's counseling sessions, for instance, or a convicted batterer's probation period _ Young's exam would have remained hidden.

"If you passed the test the board puts in front of you, the board deems you safe to practice," Grant said. The incident "is previous history, it's in the past and you're moving on."

Grant said the allegations about Young had not prompted any review of procedures used by the board in giving background information to prospective employers.

He pointed out that Young had, after all, passed the test.

"If the exam comes back clean, the board doesn't have a choice but to clear the person," he said. "The board's hands are tied."

Still, questions remain about whether Citrus Memorial could have pursued other methods to find out about Young's history.

One is as simple as a close check of the job application Young completed when applying at the hospital.

At a news conference last week, Citrus Memorial chief executive officer Charles Blasband noted that at the time Young was hired, the hospital didn't know he had worked in the Pinellas County school system.

Even if hospital officials had known, Blasband said, they still would have paid more attention to Young's last two jobs _ both of which were health care positions and both of which were verified.

But if the hospital had looked closer, it might have noticed that something was amiss.

A check of Young's employment application shows that he did not list his position at Countryside High School when asked to describe past employment. In the process, he left a glaring, one-year gap in his employment record.

Young stopped being a teacher and principal at a New Mexico high school in August 1986, the application says. Young said his next job _ as an exercise physiologist at a Clearwater health club _ started in August 1987. (The health care positions followed those jobs.)

The application asks prospective employees to list their four previous jobs, so the omission could be considered an outright lie, according to Ann McDowell, who is with Taylor Associates Personnel Consultants in Clearwater.

Did the hospital check that gap? It's unknown. But McDowell says she would consider the personnel workers "sloppy" if they did not.

"We always ask. It can (result in) some strange answers," she said. "That's the first thing you do."

If the hospital had done so, it might have learned that Young was not eligible for rehiring _ and the reasons. Young's personnel file and disciplinary files are public records and open to inspection; the Times and other news organizations have reviewed them.

"If the hospital can be faulted at all," McDowell said, "it's for not checking that gap."