Lawmaker who’s also RN wants to mandate background checks

State Sen. Patricia L. Miller, R-Indianapolis, plans to introduce legislation that makes background checks mandatory for Indiana nurses.

Miller said she has asked the Legislative Services Agency to draft such a bill in response to an Indianapolis Star report showing Indiana is one of only a handful of states that do not require background checks for nurses.

The Star’s investigation found nurses who had been charged or convicted of crimes involving prescription drugs, alcohol and violence. Licensing officials did not find out about those charges or convictions, however, and the nurses’ licenses were not affected.

“There ought to be a simple way to do this that is really fair and effective,” Miller, a registered nurse, told The Star on Tuesday. “Often the information is available; it’s just not getting to the state.”

Miller, who chairs the Health and Provider Services Committee, plans to introduce the bill in the next legislative session. She is gathering suggestions from nurses and others but is considering three main provisions:

Requiring hospitals, nursing homes and other kinds of health facilities to conduct pre-employment criminal background checks on nurses. They are currently required to perform such checks only on unlicensed professionals.

Requiring employers to pass information they learn about nurses’ criminal activity on to licensing officials.

Requiring law enforcement officials to pass information about nurses’ criminal history on to licensing officials on an ongoing basis (rather than checking nurses’ backgrounds only when they change jobs or renew their licenses).

“If something happens the day after you have your last criminal history check and the police know it,” Miller said, “they ought to report it then.”