HHS Investigation Finds Disciplined Nurses’ Aides Have Criminal Backgrounds

Background checks for those in caretaking roles are absolutely crucial, but a recent investigation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates such screenings are not always conducted. However, the results show a significant issue regarding nurses’ aides: about a fifth of all of those disciplined have criminal history.

The investigation, conducted by the HHS Office of Inspector General examined 1,611 discipline cases, and found that, with background checks conduced, a fair percentage had criminal convictions of neglect, theft, and abuse before 2010.

Why are background checks being conducted now and weren’t in the hiring process? First, nurses’ aides, and not registered nurses, are considered low-level employees in nursing home and other care facilities. While a registered nurse may preside over their work actions, these employees are paid close to minimum wage and receive minimal on-the-job training. In addition to this, the federal government has been allotting more grant money toward nursing home background checks.

The HHS investigation goes even further, pointing out that disciplined nurses’ aides weren’t just convicted of minor offenses, but instead, charges of rape, assault, battery, burglary, larceny, and crimes against property showed up. In addition to this, three individuals were found to be registered sex offenders.

As past lapses in judgment or a lack of thorough background checks show, screening caretakers cannot be overlooked. In San Antonio, in August, an elderly man was murdered by his in-home caretaker, and in 2009, we pointed out that daycare workers in Sioux Falls, SD had criminal convictions, at worst, and weren’t even high school graduates.

Cutting background checks, particularly at the lower level in which employees have higher turnover, may seem economical, but it’s a significant safety issue, one that puts children, the elderly, or the disabled into harmful, if not dangerous, situations.