Healthcare Background & Criminal Record Checks

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Posted by: David Garcia January 06, 2023

Criminal record checks are a standard part of the hiring process in most industries, but they’re nearly universal in the medical field. Those who work in healthcare tend to the lives of the most vulnerable. Applicants to nursing, physician, home health aid, and other healthcare roles must be safe and trustworthy.

It’s also vital that they be honest. Even if an applicant’s record check doesn’t come back with any concerning criminal charges, misrepresentation of education and experience constitutes, for many, a disqualifying offense. 

There are specific state and federal laws barring employers from discriminating against applicants based on their records. But typically, employers in the medical field can factor criminal records into hiring decisions. Here’s what that process looks like and why it matters.

Why Are Background Checks Important to a Healthcare Provider?

A recent Gallup poll showed that among professions as varied as lawyers, car salespeople, and politicians; participants ranked nurses and doctors among the two most trustworthy professions. Qualities such as honesty and trustworthiness are essential in healthcare. Patients need to trust their doctors and nurses. Thus, hiring managers at medical companies need to be able to trust their candidates.

Finding out that a candidate has a criminal record of theft shows an employer that they may never be able to trust an applicant with patients’ personal belongings or finances. Additionally, finding out that a candidate has other criminal convictions related to drugs, elder abuse, or identity misrepresentation is enough to disregard the application.

People turn to healthcare professionals in dire, life-or-death circumstances. Job candidates need to have the highest level of integrity and experience possible.

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What Disqualifies Candidates From Working in Healthcare?

Each employer will have criteria for hiring practices related to criminal records and background checks. There are also national and state laws around discrimination against candidates with criminal records that employers must familiarize themselves with to give all applicants a fair chance to compete for jobs.

However, some items on a criminal record may disqualify candidates from working in healthcare. There are common enough red flags that come up during the background check process that they can be grouped and explained:

1. Certain Criminal Convictions

Battery, violent assault, sexual assault, and hate crimes raise major red flags. If these charges appear as convictions in a record check, an employer may reasonably turn down a candidate for the position.

It is largely a case-by-case process, however. If a 35-year-old candidate’s record shows a conviction for a petty offense at 16 that they have learned and grown from, that might not constitute an instant rejection.

2. Theft and Fraud

Theft and fraud are serious charges when hiring for healthcare positions. Doctors, nurses, home health aides, and other healthcare workers all have patients who trust them with their sensitive personal information. That could include their social security number, bank account information, and valuables like jewelry that patients may have in their rooms. 

Theft and fraud are not only fireable offenses, but many employers may prosecute if they catch workers stealing. Rather than get involved in that legal mess, hiring managers may reject candidates with these offenses on their records outright.

3. Drug-Related Offenses

Drug-related offenses can similarly be immediately disqualifying. It all depends on the scope of the crime, how long ago they committed it, the temperament of the employer, and so much more.

But a conviction related to selling or smuggling drugs can suggest inherent untrustworthiness to some employers. Similarly, failing a drug screening during the hiring process is a disqualifying offense.

4. Child or Elder Abuse

Working in healthcare, you’re already dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in need of care. The stakes are even higher when it comes to children and elders in the hospital or hospice care. 

Convictions for child and elder abuse deserve their own category of criminal offenses from which there’s no moving forward.

5. Identity/Employment/Experience Misrepresentation

Certain things can come up in a background check that are still questionable, even if they aren’t criminal charges or convictions. One of those is misrepresentation.

An employer needs to know that a candidate has the proper training and qualifications to perform their job. If they claim on an application that they worked for and earned their M.D., but that proves false, there’s no reason to move forward. 

Misrepresentation of any kind raises serious questions about a candidate’s integrity. Not to mention their basic aptitude for performing the functions of the job.

What Are Healthcare Sanctions?

Healthcare sanctions are official marks that the certified licensing board of a given region will give to a practicing individual who fails to carry out their duties properly. Whenever a physician or nurse commits an error that does not live up to the standard bestowed upon them by a license, they receive a sanction.

Sanctions can include public censures, fines, suspensions, and other actions the licensing board took against the individual.

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Why Do They Belong on a Healthcare Background Check?

Sanctions are like notes in an individual’s private file that follow them wherever they go looking for work. If an individual commits an error in a hospital in Wisconsin, does a private practice in New Jersey not deserve to know if considering them for an open position?

If a candidate is under serious consideration for a job, that company deserves to see whatever sanctions against them in a background check.

How Far Back Do Background Checks for Healthcare Workers Go?

The most common increment of time that background checks go back to is a period of seven years. When a hiring manager or team hires a round of background checks for job candidates, they may stipulate the period for which they wish to screen. Some extend for up to ten years.

As you go further back, a patient’s record may not be as comprehensive or telling as the records from just two years back. The same goes for candidates who have less experience. 

But the “lookback period” of seven years is standard across the healthcare field. It’s considered a sufficient amount of time to dredge up anything that may interfere with a candidate moving forward in the hiring process.

The Importance of Thorough Background Screening in Healthcare

ScoutLogic makes background checks easy with our dedicated “Scout” service model. We will assign a trained professional to your hiring process who can answer questions, adjust parameters, and vet great candidates in real-time. Let us assess your current background check program to see how it can be improved.

Contact ScoutLogic to learn about the scout service model or inquire about pricing today.

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