Physical Therapist Background Check: A Complete Guide

physical therapist background check

If your healthcare organization is looking to hire physical therapists, it’s important to complete thorough background checks on each candidate.

Were you aware that six physical therapists were arrested and charged with operating a $20 million healthcare fraud scheme?

A physical therapist background check protects your organization, the public, your patients, and your staff against potential harm.

Failing to conduct a background check on physical therapists could result in substantial losses and liability.

At iprospectcheck, we specialize in helping healthcare organizations across the nation hire the right candidates.

We’ve compiled our extensive knowledge to create this guide on physical therapist background checks.

Let’s start now.

What is a Physical Therapist Background Check?

A physical therapist background check confirms if a candidate has the required qualifications, education, and license and doesn’t have disqualifying factors in their background such as patient abuse, sex offenses, drug abuse, thefts, fraud, and certain types of criminal convictions.

Since physical therapists have direct contact with patients and are often unsupervised, it’s important to conduct thorough background checks on each potential hire.

Why Should Physical Therapists Be Screened?

Physical therapists must complete years of education to obtain their degrees and are required to have a Ph.D. before they can receive their licenses.

They facilitate patient rehabilitation in the following ways:

  • Help with regaining or improving mobility
  • Help patients regain or build strength
  • Help with managing pain following surgery, injury, or illness
  • Facilitating rehabilitation
  • Creating and implementing tailored exercise programs
  • Supervising exercise
  • Administering other treatment

Physical therapists might be employed by medical centers, hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, and nursing homes, and they might also provide therapeutic services in the homes of patients.

Because of the responsibilities physical therapists have and their significant interaction with patients, it’s critical to run thorough background checks on each potential new hire to protect the people you serve and your organization.

What Shows Up on a Physical Therapist Background Check?

In most states, licensing boards require fingerprint background checks for physical therapists. However, this type of check might not be sufficient by itself to uncover all relevant records.

To gain a comprehensive picture of a candidate’s background, most healthcare organizations request the following searches:

  • County criminal records check
  • National criminal background check
  • Identity verification
  • Professional license verification
  • Lab-based drug screen
  • Employment verification
  • Education verification
  • National sex offender registry search
  • SAM Check
  • OIG Check
  • FACIS Check

Here’s what you might see on a few of these types of searches.

Criminal Records Search

County and national criminal records searches will show whether a candidate has pending criminal cases or criminal convictions.

A criminal background check for a physical therapist shows the following information about any conviction or pending criminal case:

  • Court case number
  • Date of offense
  • Offense type
  • Severity of offense (felony/misdemeanor)
  • Disposition if available
  • Date of disposition if available
  • Sentence information if available

Some states allow people to expunge certain types of criminal convictions. Depending on where your organization is located, expunged records might not appear in the report.

Education Verification

Education verification shows whether an applicant has the qualifications needed to work as a physical therapist and has been honest about their educational history.

On an education verification, you’ll see the following information about an applicant:

  • Name and address of each school attended
  • Attendance dates at each institution
  • Diplomas and degrees conferred

Employment Verification

Employment verification confirms claims made by applicants about their employment records.

An employment verification returns the following data about each job an applicant has held:

  • Employer name and address
  • Dates of employment at each job
  • Titles and positions held

National Sex Offender Registry Search

A national sex offender registry search on an applicant who is registered as a sex offender reveals the following types of information:

  • All names and aliases used by the applicant
  • Tattoos, scars, and other distinguishing features
  • Where the applicant is registered as a sex offender
  • The state in which the applicant was convicted of the offense requiring registration

If the offense can be reported, you will also receive information about the type of offense, its severity level, the offense date, its disposition, the disposition date, and the sentence the applicant received.

Professional License Verification

Professional license verification reveals the following information about the applicant’s license:

  • License number
  • License type
  • Issuance date
  • Sanctions and disciplinary history
  • License status
  • Expiration date

Lab-Based Drug Screen

A drug screen shows whether an applicant has recently used one or more of the following substances:

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

How to Run a Background Check on a Physical Therapist

Before a state licensing board issues a license to a physical therapist, it will request a fingerprint-based FBI background check. However, employers typically can’t perform these types of searches.

For employers, there are two primary methods to conduct physical therapist background checks.

You can either try to do it yourself or request help from a third-party consumer reporting agency that specializes in employment background checks.

1. Do-it-Yourself Method

A do-it-yourself background check for a physical therapist might involve searching online for information about the candidate and sending multiple requests to different educational institutions, former employers, state agencies, and your state’s licensing board for physical therapists.

DIY background checks can take several weeks, and you could receive inaccurate, incomplete, and outdated information.

The information you might receive might also not comply with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and potentially expose you to liability.

2. Hiring a Reputable Third-Party Background Check Company

The best way to complete a background check on a physical therapist is to hire a reputable background check provider like iprospectcheck.

We stay up-to-date with the changes to relevant local, state, and federal laws and have substantial access to reliable information sources, which helps us return comprehensive and fully FCRA-compliant background checks to our clients.

Physical Therapist Background Check Laws

No laws specifically apply to physical therapist background checks.

However, you should familiarize yourself with several relevant laws that apply to employment background checks in general.

Federal Laws

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA protects the accuracy and privacy of information that consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) collect and report about consumers, including information reported to potential employers on background checks.

Employers are also covered by the FCRA when they receive background check reports that contain negative information about applicants.

Under the FCRA, you must complete the adverse action process before you can decide not to hire a physical therapist applicant based on negative information reported on a background check.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII)

Title VII forbids discrimination in the workplace based on the protected statuses of employees and applicants.

This law applies to background checks when a report reveals an applicant’s criminal record.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance about what employers should do when they learn an applicant has a criminal record.

Before you can decide against hiring an applicant based on their criminal history, you must individually assess the conviction as it relates to the position.

State Laws

State laws on background checks broadly vary.

Many states and localities have passed ban-the-box laws, which control the point at which employers can ask about criminal history information and conduct pre-employment background screens.

An increasing number of local and state governments have passed ban-the-box laws. These laws control when you can ask applicants about criminal history and/or conduct pre-employment background checks.

Check with your legal counsel to learn about relevant state and local laws that might apply to you.

How Far Back Does a Physical Therapist Background Check Go?

The FCRA includes a seven-year time restriction on certain information for jobs paying less than $75,000 per year, including the following:

  • Arrests that didn’t lead to convictions other than in pending criminal matters
  • Liens
  • Civil judgments
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Bankruptcies

However, the seven-year time restriction doesn’t apply to positions offering more than $75,000 per year. It also doesn’t apply to other crucial information.

Conviction information, employment history, professional license information, education history, and other essential information can be reported no matter how old it is.

How Long Does a PT Background Check Take?

How long it might take you to complete a comprehensive physical therapist background check will depend on the method you choose for conducting it.

If you attempt a DIY method, the process could take multiple weeks.

This is another good reason to partner with iprospectcheck.

Because of a combination of advanced research skills and our access to reliable databases, we are often able to return background checks to our clients in a few hours.

iprospectcheck: Your Partner for Physical Therapist Background Checks

If you are hiring physical therapists to work for your healthcare organization, you should conduct comprehensive background checks on each candidate under consideration.

Failing to conduct thorough physical therapist background checks could result in patient harm, substantial liability, and damage to your organization’s reputation.

At iprospectcheck, we provide background screening services for physical therapists, pharmacy technicians, physicians, nurses, CNAs, MAs, EMTs, and more. We service nationwide.

Contact iprospectcheck today to learn more about our employment screening services or to receive a free quote: (888) 509-1979

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.