The Virginia legislature is very close to approving a bill that would require all nurses in the state to undergo more in-depth criminal background checks than ever before. The State Senate recently voted 39-0 in favor of the legislation, and if a similar show of support is provided by the House of Representatives, then it will head to the governor's desk to be signed into law. If passed, the law would go into effect beginning on New Year's Day 2016.
The law would affect all men and women seeking a registered or practical nursing license within the state of Virginia. Upon applying for a nursing license in the state, citizens would be required to provide both a set of fingerprints and a "personal description" to the licensing body. These items would then be used to run an extensive nationwide criminal background check through the FBI. Each applicant would have to pay a $50 to have their fingerprints processed and their background check report compiled. The checks would not have to be repeated with license renewals.
If passed, the legislation would fill a rather big hole in nurse licensing policy that relies on the honor system, rather than on criminal background checks. Virginia is one of just four states in the entire country that does not run background checks of individuals applying for nursing licenses. Applicants are asked about their criminal history on the licensing questionnaire, and are expected to disclose any information that might affect their hiring chances. But as with many similar honor systems, applicants aren't always too eager to hand over the information that might lead to a denial of their license request.
That doesn't mean that all nurses in Virginia are running around without any background checks, though. On the contrary, hospitals and other employers will still usually run criminal history checks of nurses before hiring them. However, an FBI background check at the licensing stage could help greatly to keep any dangerous or untrustworthy individuals far away from the state's nursing industry. Frankly, no person in the country should be able to procure a nursing license (or any healthcare license, for that matter) without first submitting to background checks. Healthcare patients are often people at their most vulnerable, and steps need to be taken to keep them safe.
Luckily, there is very little chance that the Virginia nursing background check bill won't become law. The legislation has bi-partisan support, as shown by its unanimous passage in the senate. Furthermore, it was actually initially introduced by Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has already promised funding for the implementation of the policy. In other words, it's safe to say that all nursing license applicants will have to undergo background checks beginning next year.