According to the Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 92% of healthcare organizations have employed at least one individual with a criminal record. Further, at least half of nurse care facilities have employed 5 or more people with a criminal record.
One has to wonder exactly why this is happening. There are many possible reasons for criminals continuing to be employed in the healthcare industry. Is it cost? Are they taking short-cuts in the background screening process? Are they using cheap databases? Are they scrutinizing their vendors to ensure they are qualified?
Whatever the case may be, the statistics are alarming considering the vulnerability of patients and the fact that this industry, more than any other, is so highly regulated.
Conducting criminal search searches in the US is not an exact science and proper search methodology must be used. Being properly educated in criminal background checking is critical to the success of any background screening program. This sounds basic, but many companies simply are not performing the most appropriate search based upon where the applicant has resided.
Statewide criminal searching can be an effective search, however this is far from perfect. Many states either don’t report at all or provide limited information. In Texas, the statewide criminal database report coverage is approximately 70%, so nearly 30% of various counties’ records are not being reported to the database. Other states only report Bureau of Prison records while California has no available repository.
Since there is no centralized national database and most offenses occur near a person’s home, county criminal searches are the best approach. All counties the applicant has resided during the past 7 years should be searched. Done properly, county criminal searches will show the most recent court data for felony and misdemeanor records.
Searching healthcare specific sanctioned databases are an important component of the background screening process. Many individuals may have been sanctioned for offenses committed while on the job. This could include abuse, credential revocations, disciplinary action and other offenses. Often this information would not appear on a criminal background check or via state license verification.
If applicable, it’s critical to search all names used during the past seven years. This is one area that is frequently not being properly addressed and a cause of flawed background checks. Since courts do not index criminal records by social security number, a search must be done based upon any names used.
Many healthcare organizations simply are not budgeting a sufficient amount of money on their background screening programs. Often times, opting for cheaper alternate database searches or minimizing the criminal search by not covering all residences the applicant has lived during the past seven years. Conducting the most basic background check is a common approach many companies take and this simply is not a wise decision, neither ethically or legally.
It’s important to understand that the people you hire are what make up your organization and ultimately determine your success or failure so you must take all reasonably prudent measures during the pre-screening process.