The Colorado Nursing Agency says that it is "currently exploring options" that would improve nursing background checks in the state. Currently, per a report from 9News NBC in Denver, Colorado has no statewide policy that requires prospective nurses to go through background checks. Colorado is one of 14 states in the country that don't have such a requirement at the state licensure level.
The state's nursing background check policy made headlines this month when a news story broke about a young disabled girl being abused by her caretaker. Per the 9News NBC report, the victim is a 10-year-old girl who, due to a rare disability, has the cognitive abilities of a six-month-old child. The girl's parents worked with an agency to hire an in-home nurse who they believed would be capable of caring for their daughter's special needs.
The girl's mother noticed bruises on her daughter. She checked hidden cameras installed in her daughter's room to determine the cause of the injuries. The footage showed the nurse assaulting the patient.
The nurse is now facing two counts of third-degree assault against an at-risk victim. If convicted, she would have a felony record. However, per the 9News NBC report, that felony might not stop the woman from getting her nursing license back in the future. Her license is currently suspended and may be revoked entirely next spring when Colorado's Board of Nursing convenes for a hearing on the matter.
The nurse does not currently have a criminal record, so a background check would not have prevented her from obtaining a license in the first place. Since the Colorado Board of Nursing does not require license applicants to go through background checks, someone convicted of abusing a disabled person could feasibly get licensed in the state. The mother of the victim in this case called that fact "terrifying" and said that it "need[ed] to be changed."
Per the Executive Director of the Colorado Nursing Agency, a change might be on the way. The CNA is considering a state licensure policy that would require applicants to pass state and FBI background checks before getting their nursing licenses. The nursing association says it is exploring these options "with other Colorado healthcare providers." For nursing background checks to become a state policy, the legislature would have to get involved. Until that happens, it will be up to employers to run their own background checks on nurses.