6 states don't require background checks for nurses

Nurses with convictions for crimes of violence, sexual offenses and drug thefts are able to evade detection in six states, which have far fewer protections in place than most states when it comes to licensing healthcare workers, according to the Denver Post.

While candidates for jobs such as massage therapists or private investigators are required to submit a fingerprint for checks against state and FBI conviction records, the nurse licensing systems in Colorado, Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, Maine and Hawaii rely on self-disclosure and complaints. The porous process allows nurses disqualified from obtaining licensure in other states to obtain a license in one of the six states with less scrutiny.

In Colorado, while hospitals and other healthcare employers say they perform their own background checks on nurses, individuals with criminal records continue to get hired. Additionally, hospitals that discover a nurse's criminal past are not required to report them to the state's licensing board, so the employee can find a job elsewhere.

The Denver Post reviewed state nurse discipline records involving criminal activity from 2010 to the present. From the hundreds of records, reporters discovered dozens of cases in which nurses or applicants did not disclose convictions and continued working in Colorado. At least seven people had convictions for sexual crimes, according to the report.

"Any healthcare providers with access to highly addictive narcotics should have checks," said state Rep. Susan Lontine, (D), who co-sponsored a bill this year to require background checks for surgical techs and assistants, according to the report. "We should look at doing something."

Cory Everett, a deputy director with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, said her department will likely seek legislation in the upcoming session to gain authority to conduct criminal background checks for nurse licensing, though she said such checks will require added resources, according to the report.

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