Why should there be criminal background checks for physicians?

The digital age of today is driven by information and this power of information is increasingly sought to solve many of the current business, social and legal problems. In this context, criminal background checks for physicians, nurses and CNAs are increasingly supported by many states during the recruitment and working stages. Concerned by the threats faced by frail seniors, many states have now passed laws allowing home care agencies, nursing homes, and consumers to check the criminal histories of prospective and current employees.

In so doing, it has been found that a disturbingly high number of workers have committed crimes, many serious, and the number appears to be rising. The financial costs, loss of lives, injuries and emotional pain caused by recruiting healthcare professionals with a criminal background are also quite significant. Hence, it is very important that criminal background checks are made mandatory in the recruitment of healthcare professionals. Eric Broder, president of FASTAFF Nursing, Denver, Colo.

, sets high standards for his company’s hiring practices. : ”The placement process then requires another set of checks, including background checks, drug screening, and examination of any additional requirements specific to the hospital” (Green, 2004). It is a fact that there are many cases of healthcare professionals with a criminal background. With 3,777 applications for the Medical Board submitted in 2001, California found criminal records for an estimated 113 to 189 doctors (AMA-OMSS, 2003).

When the records of prospective in-home support service workers in one California County were checked, over 15 percent were found to have criminal records (Nexus, 2006). In Texas, where certain convictions bar employment in long-term care and home health care settings, 9 percent of applicants in 2000 were found to have convictions (Nexus, 2006). When New Jersey passed legislation requiring all home care workers to have FBI fingerprint checks, four hundred current employees, some of whom had been working for years, were found to have committed disqualifying crimes (Nexus, 2006).

There may be people who argue that such criminal background checks are not necessary in the case of physicians and nurses as they belong to a profession that involves a lot of loving, caring and giving. Moreover, they might say that such screening would amount to discrimination in the workplace. They might say further argue that criminal offenders need not be life long threats to society. Another rational argument would be in a time where the nation is facing shortage of nurses and physicians and an increasing demand for healthcare professionals, such criminal background checks may actually accentuate the problem.

Research data shows that nurses and physicians are not beyond doing crimes in their workplace. According to an article in Nursing Management magazine: “In the cases where employees have been injured in the workplace by co-workers, and it is later discovered that the company did not check references and criminal convictions or get a background report—which would have readily disclosed that this person had a problem—the companies have been sued for negligent hiring. ” (Nursing management, April, 1996).

Moreover, persons with a continuing pattern of repeated criminal offenses do represent a high risk for future criminal conduct and some forms of criminal sexual conduct, such as child molestation have a high probability of repetition (NRMC, 2006). It would be foolishness to assign individuals with a high risk for criminal behavior to work with vulnerable service recipients. Opponents of the criminal background checks on healthcare professionals may argue that criminals need to have a second chance to find a respectable place in society. .(Kay, 2005).

Tayna Fogle who has the necessary qualifications to be an activities director at a school or nursing home finds it impossible to get a job because of 1991 conviction of drug trafficking and forgery. (Kay, 2005). Despite these arguments, it can be said that in the case of service jobs like healthcare, where the professional is in direct contact with a vulnerable client, risks regarding the safety of the patient should be minimized and only by engaging in a criminal background check, a health care organization agency can rest assured that it has taken reasonable steps to insure that a job candidate is safe.

Hospitals have a special duty of care toward patients, especially a patient who, because of their illness or condition, are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse, theft and other acts. Critique of Journal Article: In the article titled “Breaking the code of silence to ensure quality care”, dated October 2004 by Lauren Green, the author discusses the fact that despite efficient hiring practices, it is important that prior employers of healthcare professionals give adequate information when asked.

Lauren Green is an author and freelance health care writer in Perkasie, Pa. The author begins by saying that hiring in the healthcare field is not without its challenges. She then explains with examples how the increasing number of lawsuits brought by employees who received bad references has become a deterrent to providing an honest evaluation.

She quotes Donna Dorsey, RN, FAAN, MS, president of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and the executive director of the Maryland Board of Nursing who says that licensing can’t take action against poor performing nurses unless they receive information from employers, patients, and co-workers and that employers also need to be able to give honest references. The author then explains what a general hiring agency does. According to Eric Broder, president of FASTAFF Nursing, Denver, Colo.

, when anyone applies, the company checks if they have had 2 years of hospital based experience, if they have references from faculties where they have worked at, inventory of their skills, medical clearance to work on the job, background checks, drug screening, and examination of any additional requirements specific to the hospital. The main problem in society is that when a former employer gives a poor reference, he is likely to be sued by the employee. This makes it difficult to obtain honest information about an employee from his past employer.

Moreover, the author says that hiring from staffing companies puts a greater gap between the hospital and the work history of the nurse. One can never be sure that the company has been thorough in their hiring process. The main obstacle is the legal aspect of giving an opinion. The article quotes Dorsey “Employers need to be confident that information they share regarding employer performance is free from liability,” Apart from references, there are other aspects such as the willingness of those who’ve worked with the nurse to report any warranted actions to the appropriate state board of nursing.

In this context Dorsey is quoted as saying that criminal background checks should be performed. Mary Heinen, RN, MSN, a nurse leader with the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Martinsburg, W. V. , recommends that temporary staff be carefully orientated when joining the team. She also believes one should examine the nurse’s background and education and verify their license and history. Broder believes that to stop unnecessary lawsuits and to ensure honest references and qualified, trustworthy employees, regulatory agencies may have to step in. He does, however, note that this might be an expensive process.

But Broder opines that technology could step in and reduce costs for this checking process. In the meantime, Heinen feels that there should be supervision, observation and intense scrutiny of new recruits. This article is a compilation of expert opinions. The authors emphasize the fact that apart from criminal background checks a lot more needs to be done to ensure safety of vulnerable patients. While the experts talk about difficulties of checking the background of a prospective employee, one understands the relative ease and importance of checking criminal history background. Bibliography: Internet Sources: Nexus (2006).

What Can We Learn from Criminal Background Checks? An Interview with Forensic Psychologist Vern Quinsey. NCPEA. http://www. preventelderabuse. org/nexus/bgchecks. html ESR (Employment Screening Resources) (2007). Risk Management and Pre-employment Screening for Hospitals and Health Care Organizations—A Critical Responsibility. http://www. esrcheck. com/articles/article15. php Pulse (School of Nursing, Emory University) (2005). Using Criminal Background Checks to Inform Licensure Decision Making. http://www. nursing. emory. edu/pulse/faculty_tools/compliance_docs/fc_criminal_background_checks. pdf Print and Journal Sources: AMA-OMSS (2003).

Report C: Medical Staff Criminal Background Checks. December 2003. http://www. ama-assn. org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/21/i03proceed_rptc. doc NRMC (Non-profit Risk Management Center) (2006). Community Service Brief: Criminal History Record Checks. http://www. nonprofitrisk. org/csb/csb_intro. htm AACN Viewpoint (2004). Cullen Case Prompts Calls for National Data Bank. Jan/Feb 2004. http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qa4022/is_200401/ai_n9378874 Stewart, Kay (2005). Getting a second chance may prevent return to crime. The Courier Journal. http://www. courier-journal. com/apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=/20050516/NEWS01/505160365/1008