AARP is pushing for mandatory criminal background checks for all employees. 92 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. employed at least one individual with at least one criminal conviction. One facility that employed 164 workers had 34 with criminal convictions.
These are among the results of an investigation ordered by the Senate Special Committee on Aging and executed by the Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. The report entitled Nursing Facilities’ Employment of Individuals With Criminal Convictions was released in March 2011.
Federal regulation prohibits Medicare and Medicaid nursing facilities from employing individuals found guilty of abusing, neglecting, or mistreating residents by a court of law, or who have had a finding entered into the State Nurse Aide Registry concerning abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of residents or misappropriation of their property. Guidelines from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for this regulation state that "[nursing] facilities must be thorough in their investigations of the past histories of individuals they are considering hiring."
Despite this guidance, Federal law does not require that nursing facilities conduct FBI or statewide criminal background checks. The issue is therefore left to the states to decide.
The common problem of criminality among nursing home workers stems from the low pay, long hours, poor working conditions, and lack of benefits and absence of opportunity for advancement. These factors produce a very small pool of workers to choose from.