In New Jersey, unlike most other states, anyone can identify themselves as a nurse and get away with it.

While current state law prohibits an individual without a nursing license from presenting themselves as a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, or use the R.N. or L.P.N. abbreviation, the law does not apply to those who use the title "nurse" without a license.

"This is misleading to the healthcare consumer and is resulting in miseducation, mistreatment, direct harm and even death," said Trisha McGovern Egenton, a registered nurse in New Jersey since 1987.

Egenton said there are unlicensed medical assistants in offices, home caregivers, and technicians in outpatient settings who are falsely telling clients that they are nurses.

In 40 states, this act is banned.

"It is our duty to protect the healthcare consumer by reassuring them that in our state of New Jersey no one can call themselves a nurse without a valid license," Egenton said.

Egenton made her comments before the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee, which on Monday advanced legislation that would include "nurse" among the titles, designations and abbreviations that cannot be used improperly.

"Out of respect for the hardworking, dedicated professional nurses across New Jersey, they should be the only ones allowed to use the title they've more than earned," said Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti, D-Hudson, a sponsor of the measure.

The bill would impose a $200 to $500 fine for violations.

Judy Schmidt, CEO of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, said the issue was brought to her attention three years ago when an association member noted a pediatric office in South Jersey was referring to its certified medical assistants as nurses. Schmidt said professionals in veterinary clinics are also referring to themselves as nurses. when they're not.

"We want to make sure that the public is protected," Schmidt said. "Anyone doing this is a patient and public safety issue."

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