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An Easy Guide to Background Checks for Healthcare Workers


Doctor reviewing patient chart authorized to work with background checks for healthcare workers

With the responsibility of sensitive information, specialized equipment, and the well-being of vulnerable people at stake, you can imagine why background checks for healthcare professionals are a crucial aspect of ensuring patient safety and maintaining the integrity of the system. 

In this blog post, we outline key aspects to consider if you’re running background checks for healthcare workers in Canada, including how to make the screening process more effective. Who doesn’t want faster, easier reports while staying compliant?

You’ll learn:

  • Why background checks are important;
  • Essential types of background checks for healthcare workers; and
  • How automation makes screening easier.

How Background Checks Protect Regulated Industries

In Canada, healthcare workers are subject to provincial- and federal-mandated rules and background checks are performed as part of credentialing and licencing procedures and during the hiring process because employees must be well-trained and capable of providing safe, high quality care to patients.

Not unlike other regulated professions, healthcare background checks are crucial for the following reasons:

  • Verifying candidates are qualified for their jobs;
  • Confirming that professionals hold valid medical licences;
  • Protecting patients and other employees from potential harm;
  • Minimizing employer exposure to potential negligent hiring liability; and
  • Maintaining the integrity of the hiring process.

Background Check Requirements for Healthcare Workers

Need peace of mind? Healthcare background checks ensure that each of your new hires are representing themselves accurately and are qualified to work in the space. When you get back a thorough background check report you have peace of mind in hiring. 

You’ve likely identified different types of background checks for different jobs within your organization. If not, these pointers on how to create a background screening policy might help. One important thing to keep in mind is that all candidates being considered for the same type of position should undergo the same screening to maintain consistency and fairness.

There’s never a one-size-fits-all screening solution, but here are some common types of healthcare-related roles and the kind of screening that could be necessary.

Note: In the US, standalone medical sanctions screening is available through some background screening vendors. This type of sanctions screening isn’t used in Canada. Instead, public investigations and infractions records are maintained on a per-province and per-territory basis by the respective regulatory college, which we describe in more detail below. However, Certn’s credential verification can help you get this information!

X ray technician reviewing CT scan authorized to work with background checks for healthcare workers

Background Checks for Healthcare Administrators

  • Identity verification
  • Basic criminal record check
  • Employment verification
  • Reference check

Background Checks for Nurses

  • Identity verification
  • Enhanced criminal record check
  • Vulnerable sector check
  • Education verification
  • Credential verification
  • Employment verification
  • Reference check

Background Checks for Physicians

  • Identity verification
  • Enhanced criminal record check
  • Vulnerable sector check
  • Education verification
  • Credential verification
  • Employment verification
  • Reference check

In-Home Care Providers

  • Identity verification
  • Enhanced criminal record check
  • Vulnerable sector check
  • Education verification
  • Credential verification
  • Employment verification
  • Reference check
  • Driver’s abstract

Again, different roles potentially require different levels of background screening. Check in with your organizational screening policy and regulatory college and talk to someone on our team to explore the top priority screenings for applicants and staff. Resources like the Guide to Acceptable Criminal Record Search can help too.

Lab technician mixing sample authorized to work with background checks for healthcare workers

Different Types of Background Checks for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare background checks might seem daunting, but once you understand what they entail, it’s easy to understand why they’re necessary.

Above we referenced a number of common screening products and services by role, here are more details on what you need to know:

Identity Verification

Certn’s OneID identity verification is powered by Trustmatic. Trustmatic’s identity verification technology consists of unrivaled identity document reading and authentication, face liveness detection, and biometrics so users can detect fake or stolen identities. It supports over 13,500 document types, and with a 98% first-time completion rate, you can save time and money. 

You can read more about it here.

Criminal Record Checks

A criminal background check is a tool that employers use to verify whether a potential employee has a criminal history that could pose a risk to patients, colleagues, or the organization itself.

There are three types of criminal record checks that HR departments across Canada use to make more informed hiring decisions: basic criminal record checks, enhanced criminal record checks (called a criminal record and judicial matters check in Ontario), and vulnerable sector checks. 

Criminal Record Checks for Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers must undergo a criminal record check in order to maintain their licence to practice medicine or to belong to professional associations. For example, in order to belong to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), all Ontario physicians must submit to a criminal record check.

Enhanced Criminal Record Checks

An enhanced criminal record check also includes police information on convictions that didn’t result in the creation of a criminal record (i.e., non-conviction outcomes). It also covers active judicial matters such as:

  • Pending charges
  • Arrest warrants
  • Release conditions
  • Conditional discharges
  • Terms of probation

Vulnerable Sector Checks

A vulnerable sector check is a comprehensive criminal background check used when individuals will be working in positions of trust or authority with vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, or individuals with disabilities. This type of check includes the same information as an enhanced criminal record check, as well as information on any findings of guilt in relation to sexual offences or offences involving violence that could put vulnerable persons at risk. 

Education Verification

Most jobs in the healthcare field require a post-secondary degree or at least some technical training and on-the-job experience. The employers we work with at Certn hire us to verify details such as the institutions attended, dates of attendance, and degrees earned to ensure the candidate has the correct preparation for the job.

Credential Verification

Certn’s credential verification can be customized to include confirming degrees, certifications, licences, and any specialized training. With our team’s help, employers verify the professional credentials of healthcare professionals to ensure that they have the necessary qualifications to practice. 

Employment Verification

Depending on the jurisdiction you live in (some places allow more detailed disclosures than others), employment verification can help you determine if the candidate was fired from a previous job. In Canada, most past employers will simply verify the title and the dates of employment, but this information can still help you determine whether there are any red flags, especially when compared to the details provided in the application and interview.

Reference Check

Employers conduct reference checks to find out about a candidate’s experience, skills, and performance from someone who has worked with them previously.

Driver’s Abstract

All provinces and territories in Canada maintain some type of drivers’ records. A driver’s abstract digs into these records to help you gauge whether employees with driving duties meet the safety criteria set by your organization to proactively manage risk, reduce liability and insurance costs, and decrease potential loss. Here’s more information on how to get a driver’s abstract in Ontario and other provinces across Canada.

Professional Sanctions and Exclusions Check

In Canada, practicing physicians and post-graduate trainees (residents and fellows) must hold a practice or educational licence from the regulatory college in the province or territory in which they practice or study. As part of their mandate to protect patients and the public interest, these colleges log investigations and disciplinary actions stemming from complaints and incidents.

Here’s a list of colleges that log records on public websites:

In the US, some background screening vendors help employers conduct a check for a candidate’s debarments, sanctions, exclusions, suspensions, or other disciplinary actions from state and federal sources through “medical sanctions checks.” Medical sanctions products under these names don’t exist in Canada, so a search at the regulatory college level (on top of your other screening procedures) via a credential verification is your best bet. Don’t worry, we can help with this. Reviewing information about investigations and discipline decisions and running background checks can allow you to make better hiring decisions and to protect patient safety and confidentiality.

Healthcare Background Check FAQs

Can you work in healthcare with a criminal record in Canada?

Background checks are a tool to gather more information. In Canada, any findings have to be evaluated in the context of job- and role-specific risk. A criminal history may not, but it’s up to the employer to make the final decision. Your employer may consider factors such as public safety, legal liability, and potential regulatory body scrutiny.

What shows up in a Canadian background check?
We wrote this blog post to answer the question, “What do background checks reveal?

How far back does an employment background check go in Canada?

There’s no limit to how far back a Canadian criminal record check goes, but the type of offence determines how long it stays on your record. Our blog post on criminal record checks Canada FAQs covers offence type in more detail.

Can employers do a background check without permission Canada?

The short answer is no. Employers must obtain written permission.

Are background checks legal in Canada?

Yes, background checks are legal in Canada, but employers must obtain consent from prospective employees before running them. Employers must also inform the person of the candidate of the check and why the information is being collected, and have processes to ensure all the information remains confidential. Canada has laws that protect individuals’ privacy and employers must comply with federal and provincial regulations.

Certn Makes Healthcare Screening Easier

Here’s what we recommend to look for when evaluating a background check vendor:

  1. Does the vendor work with healthcare?
  2. Does the vendor work with where you work?
  3. Is it easy to use?

Healthcare Expertise

Healthcare is a unique industry with unique challenges, and your background screening program should reflect that. Not all background screening providers cater to these specific factors and have customer success teams that understand the challenges of healthcare. We recommend looking for a vendor who can run exclusion list screenings, sex offender registry checks, and credential and licencing checks, alongside the standard screening.

By working with Certn, you’re choosing a tool that specifically works with healthcare companies to comprehensive and accurate background checks with industry-leading turnaround times. 

Background Screening Software Integrations

If you’re using background screening software that’s separate from all your hiring and management functions, then you’ll have to enter information for each new candidate manually. This takes up a lot of your time, and increases the possibility of errors that cause delays. 

Instead, look for a background screening provider that integrates with your other hiring tools. When everything is integrated, you should be able to transfer candidate information right from your applicant tracking system, which ultimately means fewer delays leading to your new hire’s start date. 

Certn integrates with leading hiring systems, compliance platforms, and property management software. Check out all our integrations in our Partner Marketplace.

#1-Rated Easiest to Use Background Checks

Certn is consistently rated Easiest to Use by real users on the world’s largest software marketplace, G2.com. We have over 30 years of global experience in the background screening industry, which helps us design screening services that are easy to use for clients and candidates. Leave the screening to us, so you can focus on delivering quality patient care.

Quality Care Begins with Qualified Healthcare Employees 

Background checks contribute to maintaining a high standard of care and protecting patients from potential harm. Given the potential risks of hiring unqualified workers, it’s crucial to partner with a reliable background screening provider like Certn to ensure that your checks adhere to legal and compliance standards and are accurate.

Our platform and partnerships with healthcare agencies not only makes it more convenient for healthcare workers to obtain the necessary background checks, but it also ensures that the process is secure and meets all necessary regulatory requirements. 

If you’re looking for a job in the healthcare industry, rest assured that Certn has your back when it comes to obtaining all the necessary checks and making sound hiring decisions.

Click here to request a demo so you can start screening with Certn.