Top 5 Red Flags to Look for During a Healthcare Worker Background Check

Healthcare employers value candidates with hard skills (certifications, hands-on clinical experience) and soft skills (teamwork, work ethic). Asking about gaps in employment can reveal how well the candidate adjusts to shifting changes and emergencies.

Interviewers will want to know if the applicant has professional licenses and is legally eligible to work in the US. Background checks, as can a drug screen and a federal exclusion search, can show this information.

Criminal Record

When hiring healthcare workers, you need to be aware of criminal records that may impact their ability to perform job duties and protect the patients they care for. Typically, all states have official statewide repositories of criminal records contributed by local and county courts and law enforcement agencies.

A conviction of a crime means that the applicant was found guilty of an offense in court and can be subject to various penalties depending on the type of crime and state laws. Convictions of a felony generally result in more than a one-year prison sentence, while misdemeanor convictions can be punishable by a fine and probation.

Hiring candidates who lied on their application or resume could be problematic, but it can also signal a willingness to lie to other members of your staff or clients. Be sure to ask candidates for details about criminal incidents, such as when they happened and what was involved. Also, consider asking about any pending cases, such as a criminal case or a request for an occupational license from a licensing agency.

Education Verification

A strong educational background is important to most healthcare workers, so a thorough education verification is typically conducted. It verifies the candidate’s claimed degrees, certificates, diplomas, attendance dates, fields of study, and accreditation. It can help identify phony universities, or “diploma mills,” that sell fake credentials and degrees.

These searches verify the candidate’s identity by comparing public records to their government-issued ID and photograph. This helps ensure that all subsequent background check for healthcare workers are evaluating the correct person. Healthcare employers must run national sex offender searches because their employees are frequently in close contact with children and vulnerable adults.

Healthcare organizations typically perform these searches on all applicants for positions that have access to patient medical records or are given privileges at the hospital. This ensures the healthcare worker has the skills and qualifications to perform the job. It also helps to reduce the risk of negligent hiring lawsuits by identifying candidates who may not have the necessary training and expertise to care for patients safely.

Drug Screening

Drugs can interfere with an employee’s ability to perform their job, as well as put the health and safety of others at risk. Many employers ask potential employees to complete a drug test before making them a conditional offer of employment. They may also require regular or random drug screenings of current employees or conduct them when suspicion arises. Drug screenings can be conducted via urine, breath, saliva, or blood samples.

Urine drug screens are the most common and detect evidence of drug use or misuse. They screen for drugs in the body, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol. Some urine drug tests can also detect fentanyl and metabolites of fentanyl in the body.

A positive result on a drug test means that the sample contained a drug above the lab’s established cutoff value. The laboratory will then send the sample for confirmation testing. This process can be delayed by up to 10 days. If the confirmatory test reveals a positive result, an MRO will review the chain of custody and results. This person will also look at prescriptions that might explain the result, such as benzodiazepines.

Federal Exclusion Search

The government maintains a list of individuals and entities excluded from participation in Federal health care programs due to criminal convictions related to fraud, mismanagement, or misconduct. Convictions for Medicare or Medicaid fraud, patient abuse/neglect, and unlawful prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances are examples of actions that can lead to exclusion.

Healthcare facilities must screen new and existing employees and contractors against the LEIE database to ensure they refrain from employing or contracting with someone who may be prohibited from receiving Federal payments. 

Many vendors offer a full-service model that includes screening against the OIG and State excluding databases, which can save valuable time by eliminating the need to validate name matches individually with each State agency. Typically, this option only makes sense when all or most States are required to be searched. For most other scenarios, a partial-service approach is sufficient to meet your State and Federal screening requirements.

National Criminal Search

The idea of a national criminal database that holds every record in America is enticing. However, these databases are not all-inclusive and often provide incomplete and misleading information.

For example, a felony conviction might appear as a misdemeanor in some counties. Additionally, federal crimes aren’t always recorded in county records. Moreover, state laws might limit how far back CRAs can report arrests and convictions or restrict reporting of deleted records.

Furthermore, the EEOC advises that employers individually assess convictions and only disqualify candidates for crimes relevant to the job. Hiring someone with a serious felony in their past might put patients and colleagues at risk of harm.

With nursing shortages and other staffing challenges, hospitals and healthcare facilities must rely on proper vetting and screening practices. Skipping a background check could result in costly mistakes, including patient harm and malpractice. 

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Shashank Jain

Shashank Jain, founder of good-name, a young and energetic entrepreneur has always been fond of technology. His liking for technology made him go for engineering in computers. During his studies, he learned & worked on different computer languages & OS including HBCD, Linux, etc. He also has a keen interest in ethical hacking.

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