Temp Nursing Firms Unhealthy for Background Checks and Hiring Practices

Mon, December 14th, 2009 - 5:27 am - By Gordon Basichis

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Pro Publica and the Los Angeles Times recently issued a joint study where it was claimed that temporary staff agencies are a magnet for the unfit nurses and healthcare workers.   That is to say that nurses with previous criminal convictions or were disciplined for anything from stealing illegal drugs from the hospital dispensary to falling asleep on the job are attracted to the temporary staffing agencies looking to take advantage of the shortage in nursing and healthcare personnel.

These temporary employment staffing firms take advantage of the staff shortages and hire nurses and healthcare people of questionable character and damning background histories.   These staffing firms either fail to conduct background checks or they overlook the results of these background checks.  As it can take up to years to discipline a nurse engaged in criminal, abusive, or negligent practices, these temporary staffing agencies may actually may be aware of criminal or professional violations when they submit nurses as job candidates.

The nursing staffing business is a $4 Billion a year industry.  And nurses who are well paid, even the ones who screw up or who have criminal backgrounds, can move from state to state a step ahead of the disciplinary actions that take so long to impose.     So it is a matter for nurses convicted for crimes or slated for disciplinary action to stay just out of reach.  In one case, a nurse moved from one state to another, four states in all, helping herself to the illicit drugs in every place she worked.

Now it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that most nurses and healthcare workers are diligent, responsible , and caring people.   Most nurses and healthcare workers serve along careers with unblemished records.    But there is always the proverbial bad apple or in some cases the entire basket of rotten apples that stink up the greater majority.   To say the least, disciplinary measures should be taken far more quickly than they are.    No time should be wasted in listing incompetent nurses or corrupted nurses on the Sanctions list,  or OIG/GSA.   This is the list where  healthcare institutions that depend on federal funding and subsidies can lose that funding if they hire nurses or healthcare workers on the OIG/GSA.

So while most nurses have adequate to spectacular on the job records, with no criminal convictions or disciplinary actions taken against them, there are enough that do that would warrant a thorough check of the Healthcare Sanctions OIG/GSA or FACIS search.   It would warrant a comprehensive background check of their criminal records, and probably a Motor Vehicle Driving Report, or MVR, to make sure there are no substance issues or the type of driving behavior that may raise red flags.   But many of the temp staffing agencies conduct shoddy or incomplete background checks and are in it for the money.   There are nice commissions involved in placing nurses in high paying jobs.

I hope this joint study will not be ignored.   I hope the powers that be will crack down on the temp staffing agencies and, more importantly, on the nurses with criminal convictions, substance abuse issues, or a legacy of disciplinary actions.   Perhaps it is time to standardize the background checks that nurses must undergo before being hired at a federally funded agency.   But something must be done.  This joint report can’t go ignored.   Even in a bad economy.

Check them out before you hire.

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