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Personal Injury · Wrongful Death · Medical Malpractice

Do Nursing Homes Have an Obligation to Screen Staff?

When a person deals with a company that offers services, there is usually an unspoken expectation that the employer verified the trustworthiness, competence, and reliability of the employees that interact with clients. This belief is particularly important in places where employees and staff provide medical and/or personal care to individuals who are physically and/or mentally impaired, such as a nursing home. Verifying an employee’s suitability for a job before hiring them is intended to reduce the likelihood that unethical people will be put in positions where it is possible to neglect or abuse nursing home residents. Many nursing home residents lack the ability to speak for themselves, so it is critical that facilities thoroughly vet the people involved in resident care.

A recent news story on the Daily Beast looked at the prevalence of abuse and exploitation of patients by people working in the healthcare industry, including the new trend of taking photographs of nursing home residents in humiliating situations and posting them online. Families are understandably devastated if they learn about any improper behavior by nursing home staff, and as such, it is important to know about the screening requirements nursing homes must use when they hire any new employee.

Screening Guidelines

Florida law requires nursing home facilities to screen all employees and contractors who provide personal care services to residents or have access to resident funds, personal property, or living areas. Furthermore, this screening must be repeated every five years to continue working at a nursing home in order to ensure all employees and contractors remain compliant with the law. The screening itself consists of running state and national criminal history checks, a check of the National Sex Offender registry, and employment history. The purpose of this check is to determine if an individual has a past conviction or current pending criminal charges for offenses that indicate the safety of nursing home residents would be at risk. The law prohibits nursing homes from employing anyone would a criminal conviction related to the following types of crimes:

  • Financial fraud or theft;
  • Violent offenses, such as assault, battery, kidnapping, and murder;
  • Sexual offenses; and
  • Offenses related to the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly person.

Why Screening Matters in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

It is the responsibility of all nursing homes licensed in Florida to create and maintain a safe and secure environment for residents, and adequately screening personnel that come into daily contact with residents is a critical piece of fulfilling this duty. A lapse in this screening would make proving a nursing home was liable for abuse or neglect a little easier, especially if following the proper screening would have alerted administrators to past behavior and/or criminal activity that demonstrated a propensity to hurt or take advantage of others. If the nursing home had this information, it is almost presumed it would reject the person’s employment application, and avoid potential harm to the residents. Nursing home administrators are the often the last safeguard between residents and harm from facility staff, so it is essential the right decisions are made.

Talk to a Lawyer

If your family member suffered abuse or neglect while living at a nursing home, it is important to talk to a personal injury lawyer who handles nursing home abuse cases about holding the facility accountable. The Miami law firm of Pita, Weber & Del Prado understands the pain and betrayal families feel in these circumstances, and will work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact them for a free consultation.

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