The Vital Importance of Background Checks in Nursing Homes & Healthcare

Hundreds of thousands of people daily seek care from qualified medical providers. At the same time, many more people spend their entire days under the care of others, whether they are in the ICU in a hospital or a senior citizen living in a memory care center. All these people depend on professionals to render assistance that aims to improve their quality of life and address health problems.

Unfortunately, as with any profession, there are always some bad actors. In nursing and related professions, however, there can be many more opportunities for wrongdoing that can seriously impact patients or healthcare organizations. For example, consider in-home care providers—these people are in a position to do serious harm to those in their care, and some do, including robbing or even abusing patients.

Background screening for nurses is, therefore, a vital part of keeping the public safe and the organizations that employ these professionals out of hot water. However, with an ongoing nursing shortage and extremely high demand in every part of the country, not everyone follows the procedures they should. A quick look at some recent headlines reveals what happens when due diligence is not really diligent at all.

Vetting Ensures You Hire Qualified Candidates

In South Carolina, a woman worked at seven different nursing homes as a registered nurse—but the woman never qualified for such a position. Not only was she not licensed, but she had also never even attended school for nursing. The result? More than half a dozen criminal charges because of the substandard care and neglect that characterized her employment. The woman apparently used a stolen license number from Georgia to assist her efforts to deceive employers. Still, the nursing homes seemingly did not go far enough to thoroughly verify the woman’s eligibility to work—or her nursing skills.

Vetting Can Help Protect Against Theft 

In Florida and Iowa, nurses face criminal charges for stealing medications meant for patients suffering from pain. In Florida, a nurse was fired for multiple thefts of pain medication, and it was unclear if a background check was ever completed on the woman. 

In Iowa, a nurse was accused of stealing multiple vials of the extremely potent opiate drug fentanyl by faking hospital pharmacy orders. In that case, the woman had numerous prior convictions on her record—but the hospital never ran a background check. As a result, it not only mishandled the controlled substances but now faces an official reprimand and citation for failing to vet their employees properly.

How Can Nursing Homes and Others Better Protect Themselves?

Protecting patients, maintaining oversight of controlled substances, and keeping healthcare organizations ready to respond to demand is not easy. These responsibilities require a coordinated approach to achieve any level of success. As these recent news stories demonstrate, forgoing a background check can expose people and organizations to serious risks.

While they aren’t predictive of future behavior, advanced background checks that consider everything from criminal history to the validity of professional licenses are the best first line of defense healthcare organizations have at their disposal today. By developing a smart policy and ensuring you never cut corners, you can improve the healthcare hiring pipeline and foster a safer, more informed approach to employment.

Get instant updates on Health Care

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

Michael's recent publications

More Like This Post

State Criminal Search

Virginia Criminal Search

A Virginia state background check can uncover more criminal records. Learn about these tools and the legal restrictions involved.

Order a Search for Virginia