Iowa nurse, sanctioned over adoption, is fired after licensing-board error

By: - February 24, 2023 2:48 pm

Miriam Simon of Waverly was fired this week after the Iowa Board of Nurisng mistakenly reported she had been sanctioned for financially exploiting a patient. The board had disciplined Simon in January over the adoption of a patient’s son, Ezra, pictured here with Miriam. (Photo courtesy of Miriam Simon)

An Iowa nurse who was sanctioned by the state Board of Nursing for adopting the baby of a former patient was fired this week after the board mistakenly claimed she had been charged with financially exploiting a patient.

In January, the Iowa Board of Nursing sanctioned Miriam Simon of Waverly for violating state regulations pertaining to patient privacy and for attempting an initiate an emotional, social or business relationship with a patient for personal gain regardless of the patient’s consent.

Those charges stemmed from Simon’s decision to adopt the baby of a patient she treated while working in the obstetrics unit at Decorah’s Winneshiek Medical Center in September 2021. The hospital fired Simon after learning of the adoption in 2022. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported the board’s sanctions on Feb. 17, and five days later, on Wednesday of this week, Simon was fired by her new employer, Cresco’s Regional Health Services of Howard County.

The Cresco hospital apparently based its decision, at least in part, on incorrect information the Board of Nursing had transmitted to a national database called Nursys. The website is the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s public repository of disciplinary data.

The Simon family at the Bremer County Courthouse for Ezra’s adoption in May 2022. Back row, left to right: Alexis, Emilee, Allyson, Miriam, Travis (holding Ezra) and John. Front row: Avia, Hezekiah and Josiah. (Photo courtesy of Miriam Simon)

Simon said that while checking the Nursys database, hospital officials in Cresco saw erroneous information suggesting Simon had been sanctioned by the Board of Nursing for the financial exploitation of a patient – a serious offense that can lead to criminal charges. After Simon’s attorney contacted the Board of Nursing about the error, a board official apologized and the information on the Nursys website was corrected.

Simon said Friday that the correction, so far, hasn’t made any difference in her employment status: She’s still without a job.

“Part of me now is, like, ‘Do I even want to be a nurse, and is all this even worth it?’” she said Friday. “But nursing is my career, my passion and my whole life. I am good at it and my patients love me. My refrigerator door is (covered) with notes from patients … And I just feel like everything has been ripped out from under me, all for something I did purely out of love and compassion for this baby and his mother.”

The adopted child, named Ezra, is now 17 months old and in good health, but Simon said the board’s actions have created a financial and emotional nightmare for her entire family, including the seven children she had before the adoption.

“Two of my kids have birthdays in a couple weeks,” she said. “I’ve been crying, and they’ve been telling me, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t buy me anything for my birthday.’ You know, things like that — these are things children shouldn’t have to deal with, not having a birthday because their mom lost her job.”

According to the Board of Nursing, it was the 43-year-old Simon who had “initiated” efforts to adopt Ezra, but Simon said that’s not accurate. She said that after raising seven children of her own she initially had no interest at all in adopting a child until the birth mother contacted her through Facebook and raised the issue. Simon said Ezra’s birth mother was in the United States on a visa and risked being deported if she dropped out of school to care for the child.

Simon and the board eventually agreed to settle the charges against her with an agreement that stipulates she must complete 30 hours of educational training on patient privacy and take a three-day course in professional boundaries and ethics.

Simon’s attorney, Steve Lombardi of West Des Moines, said he’s unhappy with the Iowa Board of Nursing because of the incorrect information that was relayed to Nursys, and because the Nursys site doesn’t host the detailed board documents that show Simon never admitted any wrongdoing as part of her settlement agreement.

“Why does the Iowa Board of Nursing make it so difficult to read what the truth is?” Lombardi said, adding that the Cresco hospital currently employs nurses who have been sanctioned for violating patient privacy — the same offense Miriam Simon was accused of committing in the adoption case.

“Miriam Simon is being treated differently than Regional Health Services of Howard County’s other nurse employees who have had the same, or similar, actions taken against them by the Iowa Board of Nursing,” Lombardi said.

Officials at the Iowa Board of Nursing and Regional Health Services of Howard County didn’t respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.