Students participating in clinical rotation or residency programs typically need to undergo background checks beforehand. It’s a matter of safety; students pursuing health science professions are not regular employees, but they have access to patients, medications, and confidential information. As a result, clinical sites want to be sure those students do not pose a risk to others.

When you have an effective process for helping students understand the requirements and submit the necessary information, background screening can be straightforward and pain-free for all involved. Here’s what you need to know about student background checks and how to help your students get ready for theirs. 

The Importance of Student Background Checks

Student background check requirements are much more than an extra precaution undertaken by clinical sites, and most—if not all—clinical sites require them. Each site has a duty to protect patients, visitors, and students. As a result, they hold students to the same screening and immunization standards as employees, contractors, and other members of their extended workforce. Specifically, clinical sites require student background checks to attain the following benefits:

To promote patient safety and well-being

Just as a pre-employment background check can highlight potential high-risk hires, it can do the same for students. Background checks seek to identify students who could negatively impact patient health and safety, providing clinical sites with the opportunity to address any concerns before students arrive for in-person training.

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To meet accreditation requirements

To maintain a positive accreditation standing, clinical sites 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.” By holding health science professions students to the same background screening standards as employees, clinical sites maintain healthy accreditation compliance.

To avoid liability issues and lawsuits

An organization using comprehensive background screening for employees does so to manage risk. Leaving the door open to unscreened students, even those who are temporarily on-site, doesn’t make sense from a liability standpoint. A lawsuit involving a student with access to patients and the clinical environment could affect a health system’s medical schools or affiliated clinical facilities, resulting in potential financial and reputational loss.

To gain assurance students can become licensed healthcare professionals

Clinical rotation and residency programs train students to provide a pool of qualified professionals for the future. Background screening helps identify individuals who have something in their background which might ultimately prevent them from continuing their education and practicing in their chosen health science discipline.

The Components of a Student Background Check

Given the regulatory requirements and the importance of patient safety, a comprehensive healthcare background check must provide an accurate picture of each student’s identity, criminal history, and health history. The components of a student background check typically include the following:

  • Criminal history search: A combination of database and public record searches can uncover felony or misdemeanor convictions, pending cases, and open arrest warrants on the federal, state, and county levels.
  • Identity verification: The social security number (SSN) trace verifies student identity by searching name and address histories associated with a given SSN. This essential process helps to prevent the confusion of results between individuals with common names.
  • State and federal sanction checks: Sanction checks comprise multiple database searches for possible healthcare exclusions or sanctions. Key databases and lists 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)
    • The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)
    • State-specific registries and lists
  • Drug screening: Students are tested for illegal substances as well as substances banned by the clinical site. Students from universities in different locations can complete drug screening at a nearby approved testing site with paperless drug screening.
  • Immunization records: Immunization records and health histories confirm that students meet clinical site immunization requirements and do not pose a public health risk.

How to Help Students Complete Their Background Checks

For many students, the background check they must undergo for participation in clinical rotation and residency programs may be their first. As a result, they can benefit from guidance to help them gather the required documents and meet clinical site deadlines.

To assist your students in completing their background checks on time, take the following steps:

1. Understand the varying clinical site requirements.

Not all clinical sites have the same background screening requirements. For example, sites may have varying standards when it comes to individual immunization or COVID-19 testing requirements. Therefore, it’s critical to understand the requirements for background screening, drug screening, and immunizations under each clinical site affiliation agreement. Not meeting the requirements set out in those agreements could pose public health risks and harm patients. It could also place your clinical affiliation relationship in jeopardy.

2. Develop a policy covering the basics of student background checks.

A detailed policy helps your students understand the importance of background checks for health science professions and what they need to do to complete background screening requirements. When drafting a policy, be sure to include the following elements:

  • What is included in the background check
  • The documents and other information students must submit
  • Important deadlines
  • How results are shared
  • What students should expect after they have completed their background check

3. Work with an experienced student background screening provider.

When you work with a background screening provider experienced in student healthcare background checks, you can expect a smooth screening process for students and tools to help you track student compliance with clinical site requirements. With the right partner, you can gain access to the following resources:

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

Easily Manage Student Background Checks

The student background screening process runs smoother when students understand the documents and information they need to submit, and the deadlines by which those things are due. By working with an experienced background screening partner with a strong track record in student background screening, you don’t have to chase down immunization forms or leave multiple messages for students. Cloud-based tools and responsive support make it easy to keep students in compliance with clinical site requirements.

Assisting health science professions students complete background checks helps you fulfill clinical site affiliation agreements, and it also gives students a clearer path to meeting participation requirements on time. Once students meet background screening and immunization requirements, they’re one step closer to participating in their rotational or residency programs and ultimately completing their professional training. To learn more about effective strategies for helping your students stay on track with immunization and screening requirements, read our guide, “Improving Immunization Compliance”.

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