Nursing Background Check Requirements: What You Need to Know

  • March 19, 2024
  • Joe DeSanzo
  • Approx. Read Time: 8 Minutes
  • Updated on March 19, 2024
PreCheck, Powered by Cisive. Nurse Background Checks. 10 Key Ways to Ensure Patient Safety.

Ensuring quality patient care requires you to maintain knowledge of and compliance with your state's nursing background check requirements. Each state regulates the nursing field through its board of nursing. Here are the main factors to consider regarding nurse background checks:

    • Compliance. Each state has its requirements for various nursing positions. A lack of compliance can leave your practice or organization at risk of hefty monetary penalties and lawsuits. 
    • Importance. Nurse background checks are an important part of maintaining patient safety, and they help to protect your staff and organizational reputation. Because candidates can be dishonest on their resumes, nursing background checks ensure that nurses are qualified for their positions through verification of their credentials. It also helps you identify applicants with criminal records. 
    • Requirements. While nursing background check requirements vary from state to state, they usually include common elements. Always verify identity, education, license, and previous employment. There should also searches for federal sanctions and exclusions, national sex offender registry checks, and government watchlist searches. Any comprehensive nurse background check should include drug testing and criminal history searches.
    • PreCheck. PreCheck can help your organization or practice hire the most qualified nurses and stay compliant with state regulations.

While nursing background check requirements are not the same in every state, nurse background checks are an important part of providing high-quality patient care. Without verification, you could unknowingly hire someone unqualified for their position and put your patients at risk. 

When it comes to hiring nurses, every part of their resume should be checked because your staff, organization, and patients deserve qualified nurses.


Key Takeaways

 Here’s what you need to know about nursing background check requirements:

        • Nurse background checks ensure you're hiring qualified candidates with the proper education, experience, and credentials. 
        • Each state has a state board of nursing that regulates nurses and provides education and licensing guidelines for various nursing positions.
        • Nurse background checks include identity, education, employment history, and licensure verification.
        • A comprehensive background check will also include a national criminal background check, sanctions and exclusions search, and a national sex offender registry check.
        • A reputable healthcare background check service can conduct comprehensive screening of your nursing candidates and keep you in compliance with state regulations.


Table of Contents

  1. What is a Nursing Background Check?
  2. The Importance of Nurse Background Checks
  3. Are the Requirements Always the Same?
  4. 10 Nursing Background Check Requirements
  5. A Partner to Help You Meet Your Nursing Background Check Requirements


What Is a Nursing Background Check?

A nursing background check is a comprehensive screening process that helps employers determine the right nurse candidate for the position they're aiming to fill.  While nursing background check requirements vary from state to state, they generally include common elements.

A nurse background check typically includes identity, education, employment, and licensing verification. In addition, it will also include sanctions, exclusions, and watchlist checks, as well as a drug screening and criminal background check.


Recommended Reading: How You Can Solve the Nursing Shortage


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The Importance of Nursing Healthcare Background Checks

There are many reasons to verify a candidate's information beyond wanting to fulfill state-regulated nursing background check requirements.

One 2022 study found that while an average of 64.2 percent of applicants in all industries admitted to lying on their resumes to get a job, 38.1 percent of healthcare workers said they lied. While this is lower than the average, it is still alarmingly high, considering how heavily regulated the healthcare industry is.


Keep Candidates Honest

If your practice or organization has a reputation for being lax when it comes to verifying information on a resume, word will get around. If one nurse lies on their resume and others find out there were no consequences, more will likely take the same approach.

However, if a nurse applicant is caught lying during the background check process, others will be less likely to attempt it when they apply.


Hire Qualified Nurses

You want nursing staff with the right education, experience, and licensing for your patients and organization. Verifying credentials ensures you're hiring the most qualified candidates.


Protect Your Organization

Hiring the wrong person can leave your organization open to civil penalties for noncompliance with state regulations and even malpractice lawsuits. A well-publicized legal issue or scandal can ruin your organization's reputation.


Protect Your Patients

Nurses interact with children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. The majority of patient care is given through nurses.

Your obligation to give the best care to your patients starts with taking the steps needed to ensure you have the very best nursing staff you can find.


Are Nursing Background Check Requirements Always the Same?

In most states, all nursing positions are regulated by the state board of nursing. Because most states have lower education requirements for LPNs versus RNs, a thorough verification of education is important to stay compliant with state regulations. 

Many states conduct their own background checks before issuing a license in nursing. However, the background check may not be comprehensive, and some states don't require any background check.


Recommended Reading: Best Nurse Background Check Services


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Nursing Background Check Requirements

While nursing background check requirements vary from one state to another, a comprehensive nurse background check should include the following:


1. Identity Verification

A background check will be meaningless if you're gathering information about the wrong person. Identity verification should be the first step in a thorough nurse background check.

With data breaches increasing and, along with it, digital access to others' personal information, identity theft is more common than ever. Plus, advanced graphics technology makes creating counterfeit government-issued IDs easier.

Modern identity verification often uses facial recognition to compare the image in the ID with a live photo taken with a mobile device. This process includes detection to ensure the photo is of a live subject. 


2. Verifying Nursing Education and Past Employment

Employment and education verification ensures that your potential nursing candidate is qualified for the position they're applying for. It also helps to reveal dishonesty when you discover that the resume hides employment gaps or job-related issues.

Education verification should involve checking on the accreditation status of the institution itself as well as direct confirmation of the degree attained. Periods of enrollment and the graduation date are also verified for high school, vocational school, college, or university, regardless of whether the candidate supplies a diploma.

Employment verification should involve researching the company to verify that it's legitimate. The candidate's job title, dates of employment, and eligibility for rehire are also confirmed.


3. Professional Nursing License Verification

To comply with state regulations, a candidate's license must be confirmed as valid and current. Some states search a candidate's criminal history during nurse license renewals, and others require continuing education credits. 

A nursing license verification will involve research with the state's board of nursing. Any reasons for nonrenewal or periods of suspension should be verified and discussed with the candidate. 


4. National Criminal Background Check

Many states have guidelines concerning the types of criminal convictions that will disqualify a person from working as a nurse. A criminal background check ensures compliance with state regulations. 

While a quick search can be conducted through national records, local courthouses are notorious for having inaccurate records. Also, many courts don't post their records online. 

For a thorough, accurate criminal history check, there should be a check on local, county, and state records.


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


5. Federal Exclusion Search

Suppose your candidate has received disciplinary action from a state or federal agency or has been found guilty of certain criminal offenses. In that case, they may be placed on a federal exclusion list. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) maintains this list because it oversees the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

If your practice or institution receives federal funds through Medicare or Medicaid, it's important to verify that you're not employing anyone on this list. Doing so could lead to monetary penalties or even risk your participation in these programs.

Other federal agencies that maintain exclusion lists include:

        • Fraud Abuse Control Information System (FACIS)
        • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
        • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
        • Office of Foreign Office Control Special Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (OFAC-SDN)
        • TRICARE
        • General Services Administration (GSA) System of Awards Management (SAM)
        • US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)


6. Domestic Watchlist Search

Any candidate needs to be cross-checked with the FBI's domestic terrorist watchlist. While it might seem unlikely that you're hiring a suspected terrorist, you want to make sure one doesn't become part of your organization.

This search should also include a check on the FBI's most wanted list.


7. National Sex Offender Search

Because nurses often interact with children and the elderly, it's imperative that you check any nursing candidate against the national sex offender registry. This database also includes registration dates and current status.

As of 2023, there were over 700,000 registered sex offenders, according to safehome.org. Hiring a person on this list could put your patients, staff, and your organization's reputation at risk.


8. Nurse Drug Testing

Results from a study published in 2022 showed that 18 percent of nurses showed signs of substance use, and 6.6 percent suffered from substance use disorder (SAD). A 2008 study reported that nurses have a 50 percent higher substance use rate than members of the general public. 

One reason for the high rate of substance use among nurses is easy access to prescription drugs in doctors' offices, nursing homes, hospices, and hospitals. Because impairment at work can put your patients at risk, drug testing is an important part of a nurse background check.


9. Healthcare Sanctions Check

A sanction differs from an exclusion in that it's typically a disciplinary action taken by a state licensing board, but it doesn't necessarily lead to an exclusion. For example, a license may be temporarily suspended during an investigation and reinstated later.

While an exclusion list will include individuals with extreme sanctions, it doesn't include all disciplinary actions. Many federal entities, such as TRICARE, maintain sanction records in addition to exclusion lists.


10. Other Healthcare Background Check Requirements

Some nursing background check requirements may also require checks on the following:

        • Immunization Records: Nurses' immunizations against communicable diseases must be up to date.
        • Credit Checks: Credit checks can provide a snapshot of a person's financial situation, including payments and debts.
        • MVR Checks: Driving records can show any substance-related criminal convictions, such as a DUI.


Recommended Reading: Your Must-Have Guide to Healthcare Background Check Compliance


A Partner to Help You Meet Your Nursing Background Check Requirements

Your patients depend on the nursing care your organization provides. To stay compliant with applicable laws while also protecting your patients, staff, and the organization's reputation, nurse background checks in your hiring process need to be comprehensive. 

At PreCheck, you can count on our team of FCRA-certified experts to conduct accurate, thorough, and compliant nurse background checks for any of your prospective candidates. A Cisive company, PreCheck has more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry. 

Cisive has a reputation for its 99.9994% accurate criminal background checks. This high level of accuracy minimizes your risk of hiring the wrong person and facing issues with FCRA compliance.

Find out how comprehensive background checks with PreCheck can help you find the right nursing candidates for your practice or organization. Speak with an expert today. 


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


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