As a recently retired sup / manager, I'd suggest some caution with the idea of using a friend -- or even a reference-checking company -- to try to obtain info on how a prior employer might respond to an inquiry from a facility potentially interested in hiring you.
A couple of thoughts:
Whenever I received such calls from an unknown caller, I'd never offer any comments on the basis of that incoming call. I'd request the caller's name, title, facility name / location, and the facility's telephone number. (If I personally knew the caller -- maybe from a previous job fair or other recruiting event, or other similar circumstance, that would be different.)
Also, many employers now only provide info on previous employees when the request is made in writing, and after the documents submitted are verified to be "legit."
If any of the specifics mentioned in the above transactions appear to be factually "off," then there would be no call-back, and the entire matter would be turned over to HR -- who, in turn, would likely notify the management team. (Most larger facilities process all requests for prior personnel info through HR from the get-go.)
As I'm sure all of us know, management has serious concerns in this area about legal liability.
And as may be reasonably expected, if it's discovered that a prior staff member was behind a "phony" request for a reference, then that could end up reflecting very negatively in the eyes of that person's previous bosses... peers, and even acquaintances. From experience in multiple healthcare facilities, often even information deemed "confidential" leaks out, and eventually gets passed on to nearly everyone in the building -- which can also be very risky for management.
So... please think things through, and exercise your best judgment.