Students participating in clinical rotations must typically go through the same background screening process as full-time hires. Background checks not only protect the students who are visiting clinical sites, but they protect patients and employees as well.

However, not all clinical sites have the same screening requirements and processes, and their requirements can also change over time. Despite the variation between programs, you still need to make sure students complete all healthcare background check requirements, so they are fully prepared to join their rotation programs on time.

The Importance of a Healthcare Background Check

A quality healthcare background check helps to maintain a safe clinical environment. When hospitals and health systems have greater visibility into the background and qualifications of prospective hires, volunteers, and students, they have greater control over who enters the workplace and interacts with patients. A quality healthcare background check delivers the following benefits:

Protects students and patients

Protecting the safety of employees and customers is the number one reason organizations conduct background checks, according to the 2020 Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) background screening survey. Clinical sites also conduct background screening to keep their employees and patients healthy and safe. A background check process covering employees and students alike helps clinical sites to know more about individuals in the workplace, so they can reduce the risk of allowing entry to those who can cause harm.

Meets accreditation standards

Twenty-two thousand hospitals and health systems are accredited by the Joint Commission, including most, if not all, of the clinical sites where students participate in rotation programs. To maintain a positive accreditation standing, healthcare organizations must comply with Joint Commission background check guidelines, which require screening for “students and volunteers who work in the same capacity as staff who provide care, treatment, and services.”

Supports healthy regulatory requirements

Regulatory bodies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require healthcare organizations to conduct background checks on prospective hires. When students also undergo background screening, hospitals and health systems are in a better position to maintain a healthy compliance record.

Healthcare organizations are also prohibited from hiring individuals with healthcare sanctions or exclusions. Conducting student background screening, inclusive of sanction checks, helps to make sure no one slips through the cracks or creates new regulatory risk for the organization.

Helps to prevent lawsuits

Healthcare organizations conducting background checks for employees and students are also taking reasonable steps to avoid lawsuits. Without a thorough background check, organizations can unwittingly invite individuals who have committed medical errors, malpractice, or fraud, and who could commit those acts again. By extending background screening to clinical rotation students, sites reduce the chances of possible legal action for associating with or hiring an excluded or sanctioned individual.

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Common Elements of a Student Healthcare Background Check

Given the regulatory and accreditation requirements, and the importance of patient safety, a healthcare background check for students makes practical and legal sense for healthcare organizations. Students are not employees, but they do have a background worthy of checking. A student healthcare background check typically includes the following elements:

Criminal records search

Criminal background checks include a search of federal, state, and county databases for convictions and criminal charges. They can also include a registry search, for example, a sex offender registry. 

Social security number (SSN) trace

The SSN trace verifies student identity by searching name and address histories associated with a particular SSN. The trace can help to distinguish between background check results for individuals with common names and those who have lived in several locations.

Sanction checks

Sanction checks cover lists and databases with the names of individuals who are barred from conducting work in a healthcare environment. The lists typically included in a student sanction check include: 

  • The GSA (General Services Administration) Excluded Parties List 
  • Fraud and Abuse Control Information Systems (FACIS) 
  • The Office of Inspector General (OIG) List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE)
  • State-specific registries and lists

Drug screening

Certain clinical sites may test for banned or illegal substances. Students from any location can complete their drug screening in a seamless, convenient manner with paperless drug screening.

Immunization records

Students meet clinical site immunization requirements for a range of illnesses. Common immunizations required for participation in clinical rotations include:

  • Vaccination and laboratory test of immunity for hepatitis B
  • Proof of immunization to measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) 
  • Annual tuberculin skin test
  • Proof of varicella (chickenpox) immunization, evidence of immunity, or a documented case of chickenpox
  • Proof of a tetanus (Td) booster within the past ten years, and a one-time adult dose of pertussis (Tdap)
  • Annual influenza vaccination each "flu season," per CDC recommendations
  • Proof of polio vaccination 

In addition, in accordance with recommendations from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), most clinical sites now also require students participating in clinical rotation programs to undergo COVID-19 testing. 

The Benefits of Working with an Experienced Background Screening Provider 

Given the potential risks to patient health and safety, a high-quality healthcare background check is essential. As a result, you’ll need to work with a reputable background screening provider experienced in student healthcare background checks. With the right partner, you can conduct student background screening and realize the following benefits:

  • Customized solutions to support student compliance with clinical site requirements
  • Comprehensive reports to help you monitor student submission compliance and identify missing documents 
  • HIPAA/FERPA compliance process and tools to help you protect student health data 
  • Cloud-based access for administrators and students, including a tamper-proof process preventing students from altering background check results.

Your background screening provider can also work with you to routinely evaluate your background screening process, and they can offer recommendations for improving compliance and efficiency. As clinical site requirements change over time, you can be sure your student background screening program keeps pace with those changes.

Meet Clinical Site Requirements with Comprehensive Student Background Screening

Student healthcare background screening has many moving parts, and it can be a challenge to keep track of all the forms, deadlines, and requirements. But when you work with a provider who can help you meet changing clinical site requirements, you can track student compliance and enjoy better relationships with your clinical site partners.

The background check and immunization tracking process should be smooth and well-organized, and when you have the right support, it can be. Available tools and resources can help you track student compliance and the timely submission of required documents. For more information about how to prepare your students for participation in clinical rotations, read our guide, Improving Immunization Compliance

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