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Background checks for nurses get an OK

SHARE Background checks for nurses get an OK

A bill passed out of a House committee on Wednesday that would require all licensees or registered people under the Nurse Practice Act to submit to criminal background checks.

SB51 has limited exemptions from registration for health-care assistants, but that group — totaling about 6,000 in Utah — will face the background checks when they apply for registration.

"We're seeing an increase in the number of people who have criminal histories," said Laura Poe, assistant director of the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

"We've had a couple of cases where individuals lied to us about their criminal histories. And when we got complaints about their being abusive with patients, we have found that they had criminal histories. Had we known, we wouldn't have given them a license." Health-care assistants are defined as people paid to provide direct personal assistance or care to a person who is ill, injured, infirm, disabled or mentally retarded in a private home or regulated facility.

Health-care assistant applicants would have to state in writing that they have had no "substantiated allegations of abuse, neglect or misappropriation of client property" within the previous five years and will have their background checked on a registry maintained by the state Office of Education or similar registry.

They also will have a fingerprint background check.

Those who fail the check will have their license or registration revoked.

Federal law requires certified nursing assistants, who register with the state Department of Health, to be checked against an abuse registry.

"This is quite strict," Rep. Katherine Bryson, R-Orem and co-chairwoman of the committee, said.

The bill excludes the registration requirement for several types of people, including those providing help to a person for free.