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Nursing Background Check: A Complete Guide [2023]

nurse background check

If you’re currently hiring nurses for your healthcare organization, you likely understand the importance of conducting thorough background checks on each potential hire.

Did you know that a New York nurse was arrested for stealing 1,467 vials of fentanyl over a two-month period from the hospital where she worked?

Nursing background checks allow you to verify the people you hire are qualified for their nursing positions and do not have any disqualifying criminal convictions.

Based on our experience conducting nursing background checks across the U.S., we’ve written this guide as a resource for healthcare organizations.

Let’s start now.

What Is a Nursing Background Check?

A nursing background check is an employment background screen that can be used to confirm an applicant’s education, employment, and professional license.

This type of healthcare background check can also be used to reveal disqualifying criminal convictions such as fraud or abuse, disciplinary sanctions, and drug abuse.

Nurse background checks can help healthcare employers make informed hiring decisions when they have open nursing positions to fill.

Why is it Important to Conduct Background Checks on Nurses?

Healthcare employers can face substantial risks of liability and harm to patients and other employees if they hire unlicensed or sanctioned nurses.

Your organization should understand that some nurses with records of misconduct might work across state lines.

While the Nurse Licensure Compact was instituted to address the shortage of nurses, it also has created a dangerous loophole through which some sanctioned nurses and those with problematic criminal convictions might work in a different state, placing patients and employees at risk.

A comprehensive nurse screening program helps to identify prospective nurses who should be disqualified from employment with your organization.

Important Nursing Background Check Laws

While there are no laws specific to nursing background checks, there are some federal and state laws that cover employment background checks in general.

Federal Laws

Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was passed to protect consumers’ privacy in the information that consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) gather and report to employers for background checks.

Under the FCRA, consumer reporting agencies cannot report the following types of information when it is seven or more years old for positions paying less than $75,000 per year:

  • Arrests not resulting in convictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Liens
  • Civil judgments
  • Lawsuits

An FCRA-compliant background check report can include information about convictions, education, licensure status, and employment irrespective of how old it might be.

Employers that receive reports containing negative information about applicants must go through the adverse action steps before they can make a final decision not to hire them.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees based on their protected characteristics.

Under Title VII, employers that receive background check reports containing criminal records must assess convictions individually concerning the open position’s required duties before making a decision not to hire the applicants based on their criminal records.

State Laws

State employment background check laws differ from state to state.

Some states have ban-the-box laws that affect when you can ask about criminal history information or conduct background checks during the hiring process.

Make sure to review your state’s laws to understand your requirements.

Nursing Background Check Requirements

Nursing background checks are important to protect potentially vulnerable patients from dangerous applicants.

As a result, nursing background checks might be much more extensive than regular background checks.

Some employers might require Office of Inspector General (OIG) checks on the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE) database. Hiring an excluded individual might subject you to substantial sanctions.

Depending on the position, a SAM background check might also be necessary to check for suspensions or disbarments from federal contracts or subcontracts.

The Fraud Abuse Control Information System, or FACIS, is a collection of regularly updated databases comprising different levels of data to ensure that healthcare providers such as nurses and nursing home workers have no history of perpetrating fraud against the states and federal government or the abuse of those under their care in the performance of their duties.

There are different FACIS levels based on the position for which you are hiring:

  • FACIS Level 1 – Includes OIG, Medicare Opt-Out, FDA, DEA, Tricare, and OFAC-SDN federal checks as well as Medicaid sanctions and state debarment sources
  • FACIS Level 2 – Includes everything in level 1 plus additional relevant state information
  • FACIS Level 3 – Includes everything in Levels 1 and 2 plus sanctioning board data from all 50 states and U.S. territories.

If you don’t properly perform a nursing background check, you could be exposed to stiff civil penalties and potential sanctions.

What Does a Nursing Background Check Include?

What shows up in a pre-employment background check for nursing depends on the requests you make when you order a background screen.

Most healthcare employers ask for the following searches:

  • Identity verification
  • Misdemeanor and felony convictions and pending criminal cases
  • National criminal records search
  • National sex offender registry search
  • Domestic Terrorist Watch List
  • Professional license verification
  • Education verification
  • Employment verification
  • OIG excluded names list search
  • SAM check
  • FACIS check
  • Drug test

Let’s take a look at what might appear on some of these checks.

Criminal Records Search

If a prospective nurse has a criminal record, a criminal background check will include the following conviction data:

  • Date of the offense
  • Type of the offense
  • Level of the offense (felony or misdemeanor)
  • Disposition of the offense
  • Date of the disposition
  • May include some sentence information
  • Pending criminal matters

If your jurisdiction has an expungement law, any expunged convictions will not be reported.

Employment Verification

Employment verification enables you to confirm an applicant’s past employment history as reported on an application or resume.

You will see the following types of information about each of an applicant’s past jobs:

  • Employer’s name and address
  • Employment dates
  • Positions/titles held

Employment verification helps you to weed out applicants who have been dishonest about their employment records.

Education Verification

Education verification helps you confirm your applicants have honestly reported their educational histories and the degrees and diplomas awarded.

An education verification will show the following data about your candidate’s educational history:

  • Name, location, and address
  • Attendance dates
  • Diplomas, certificates, or degrees conferred

Professional License Verification

Professional license verification is critical for nursing job applicants.

A professional license verification report will reveal the following types of information:

  • License type
  • Issuance date
  • Expiration date
  • License status
  • Any sanctions or suspensions

Verifying the professional nursing license of your applicants can help to ensure they are qualified for your positions and protect you from negligent hiring liability.

Drug Test

A drug screen will tell you if an applicant returned a positive result for any combination of the following substances:

  • Marijuana
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Cocaine
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methaqualone
  • Methadone

How to Conduct a Background Check on a Nurse

Some healthcare organizations try to conduct nursing background checks on their own by sending requests to multiple agencies, schools, and employers. This might leave you with incomplete or outdated information.

Similarly, you might find vendors advertising free background checks on the internet. You shouldn’t use these types of vendors because the information might be outdated, incorrect, and noncompliant with the FCRA and other laws.

The easiest method of conducting an accurate, FCRA-compliant, and up-to-date nursing background check is by using an experienced background screening provider such as iprospectcheck.

We strictly adhere to all background check laws and regulations to return compliant and comprehensive background checks.

What Can Prevent You From Having a Career as a Nurse?

Several red flags can prevent applicants from being hired for nursing jobs.

Here are a few common reasons why nursing applicants might be denied employment.

1. Disqualifying Criminal Convictions

Because of the access nurses have to patients, certain types of criminal convictions will disqualify them from employment.

Some examples of criminal convictions that might result in a denial of employment include any convictions dealing with theft, drug abuse, patient or elder abuse, or sexual offenses.

2. Exclusions or Sanctions

Nurses who appear on the list of excluded individuals and those who appear on the sanctions list can’t be hired for jobs with agencies that contract with Medicare or Medicaid.

Appearing on the exclusions or sanctions list will likely prevent someone from being hired as a nurse.

3. Lies About Employment

Some prospective nurses lie about their past employment to try to hide issues or employment gaps.

Healthcare employers that request employment verification can easily spot these types of lies or omissions and will likely deny employment to dishonest applicants.

4. Lies About Education

Another area in which some applicants lie is their education.

Education verification shows the institutions attended and any degrees or certificates earned.

Lies about education will likely result in a denial of employment.

5. Failed Drug Screen

Since nurses have access to prescription medications, employers typically request pre-employment drug screens to screen out applicants who illegally use drugs.

Failing a pre-employment drug screen will likely result in a conditional offer of employment being withdrawn.

6. Licensure Issues

Nurses must have current and valid nursing licenses.

If an applicant’s license has expired or been suspended, their application for employment as a nurse maybe turned down.

How Long Does a Nursing Background Check Take?

How long a nursing background check will take will depend on the screening method you choose.

If you try to do it yourself by submitting requests to numerous county, state and federal agencies, past employers, licensing boards, and educational institutions, the process could take weeks to complete.

The best method for completing nursing background checks is to work with a reliable and experienced provider like iprospectcheck.

Our vast resources and research methodologies often allow us to return background check reports in as little as a couple of hours.

Partner With iprospectcheck for Reliable, Trustworthy Nurse Background Checks

Nursing background checks help to screen out potentially dangerous and unqualified applicants who could harm your patients, staff, and organization.

Because of their importance, you must take care to thoroughly screen prospective nurses and conduct ongoing checks of your existing nursing staff.

At iprospectcheck, we complete comprehensive nursing background checks for healthcare organizations throughout the U.S.

Call iprospectcheck to learn more about our background check services and receive a free quote: 888-808-9997

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.