Criminal Background Checks

January 27, 2016 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


State statutes or regulations may require healthcare employers in the acute care sector to obtain criminal background checks of individuals seeking employment for certain types of healthcare positions. State laws vary significantly as to what types of employers must conduct background checks, which databases they must check, which job positions require background checks, what types of convictions may prohibit employment in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, and whether criminal background checks are required at other times after the employee's initial hire.

Criminal history information may come from various sources, including state or county court records, law enforcement and corrections agency records, state registries for certain offenses (e.g., sex offender registries), state criminal record repositories, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Employment background checks may be conducted by government agencies or private enterprises, such as CRAs regulated by the FCRA, using various databases. CRAs may maintain their own proprietary databases and compile information from various sources, such as those described here. However, the accuracy of the information in the reports depends on the extent to which the enterprise has updated or otherwise verified the information it obtained from source databases. A common problem, for example, is inclusion of arrest records without any indication of whether a person was convicted (Appelbaum).

State law enforcement agencies (e.g., state police) conduct statewide background checks regarding crimes committed within that state. FBI background checks are conducted by a state law enforcement agency that provides identifying information and a set of fingerprints to the FBI to match against criminal background information maintained in the FBI database. The FBI database includes information on federal crimes and crimes reported by states. However, information in FBI records may not indicate whether the victim of a crime was a resident of a long-term care facility or a patient in an acute care facility—information that a reasonably prudent employer would find relevant in interpreting the applicant's background. Consequently, additional required background information...

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