Hospitals deliver vital, life-saving services. Ideally, hospitals should be one of the safest places a person can be. To create that environment, medical organizations need to hire staff with care. Hospital background checks are a critical element in the hiring process. Proper screening makes a difference for everyone, from doctors and nurses to custodial staff.

Surprisingly, there is no federal law requiring hospitals to run background checks. Virtually every organization uses them, however. Background screening is essential to mitigate risk or comply with state laws. Medical malpractice lawsuits can cost millions of dollars and harm a hospital’s reputation. Lawsuits stemming from negligent hiring claims are also costly and time-consuming to litigate. In such an environment, most hospitals follow the most stringent background check procedures.

What type of background checks do hospitals do? Healthcare providers may use a wide range of tools to create a safer environment. The most thorough background check process uses almost all the following elements.

Criminal Background Checks

These checks are the bedrock of every screening process. Certain criminal convictions are serious red flags. Hospitals want to avoid hiring job candidates who could directly threaten patient safety or the organization. Violent felony crimes and sex offenses top the list of concerns. Drug offenses or a pattern of misdemeanors could also be barriers. Financial crimes such as fraud or embezzlement may also disqualify individuals.

How far back do hospitals do background checks? The lookback period for background checks varies from state to state. In some states, hospitals may only be able to see 7 to 10 years of criminal history. In other states, background checks report all convictions, regardless of how long ago they occurred. Hospitals may check local courts for criminal records, or they may consult state databases. They may also conduct a background check using a wide-ranging search of records nationwide.

Drug Screening

Every hospital has its own internal pharmacies and storerooms. These operations are vital for supplying various drugs and supplements necessary for treatments and more. In recent years, some hospitals have had issues with doctors and nurses stealing from these stores. Often, the theft relates to personal drug use, especially opiates.

Hospitals increasingly rely on drug tests to defend against these threats. It is also an essential part of basic due diligence. For someone with addiction or substance abuse issues, a hospital isn’t a suitable employment environment. The risks for abuse and theft are simply too great.

Civil Court Record Searches

Some hospitals check civil court records alongside criminal court records. Healthcare practitioners sued for malpractice or misconduct are not a good fit for hospitals. Civil court records can reveal whether someone has faced any such lawsuits or legal action. Such records can also provide information about the outcome of the case. A lost lawsuit could be a red flag, but a doctor who beats the suit might have a more nuanced story. Checking these records is vital.

Employment and Education Verification

The appropriate amount of experience and education is essential for hospital work. Hospitals may use verification services to support this investigation. They will verify an applicant’s work history, especially with other healthcare organizations. In cases where specific education is very necessary, they may contact universities, too.

Reference Checking

A reference check offers a subjective point of view on the applicant. While you’re less likely to find any red flags here, references help create a more complete picture of the individual. Hospitals check references to learn if someone will be a good fit for the organization’s culture.

Industry Exclusion List Checks

The healthcare industry and federal government operate lists of people hospitals should not hire. Usually, these are individuals dismissed for misconduct or malpractice. Hospitals should consult these industry exclusion and sanctions lists to ensure their applicant does not appear. Sources include the GSA Excluded Parties List and the TRICARE Fraud and Abuse List.

Offender Registry Checks

No registered sex offenders should work in a hospital setting. Hospitals check state registries to verify that an applicant is not such an offender. Organizations must take care not to overlook any registries to avoid missing records that could automatically disqualify someone.

License Verification

Hospitals should confirm that nurses, doctors, and other medical staff have the appropriate credentials. At a minimum, this usually means a current, valid state medical license. Other specialty-specific credentials may also be a requirement. Confirm with the issuing body or state that the holder has a valid license.

Specific Screenings for Certain Job Roles

Certain hospital background checks may not be necessary for all workers, but they are helpful in certain situations. For instance, an ambulance driver position should always include a driving history check. Someone with access to finances or sensitive patient information may need to complete a credit history check.

Do hospitals run background checks on visitors?

Some hospitals may use ID scanning technology to log and screen visitors during certain hours. However, this is not the typical hospital background check for hiring. Hospitals may disallow those with felony convictions or restraining orders from entering as visitors. However, the extent of this process is hard to estimate. Hospitals generally don’t restrict who can arrive as a visitor.

Develop a Strong, Secure Hiring Workflow for Hospitals Today

Building a trustworthy hospital team is a demanding task. Finding all the necessary doctors and nurses can be a challenge. Along the way, organizations must maintain vigilance about proper screening. Hospital background checks must be thorough and detailed. At, we offer customizable solutions for the healthcare sector. Work with our team to access your organization’s most critical screening tools. Contact us today for your next steps.

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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

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