In January 2019, the healthcare world was rocked by the story of a comatose female patient in Arizona who gave birth unexpectedly. Since she had been in a vegetative state for a number of years, it was a complete surprise to most of her caregivers. A police investigation found evidence she had allegedly been impregnated by a male nurse, Nathan Sutherland, whose DNA was connected to the baby. This is a classic example of neglecting the duty of care required for a patient. The employee was subjected to pre-employment checks before being hired, however, which will help the Hacienda HealthCare Facility’s defense.
What is a Duty of Care?
“Duty of care” is a legal definition of a person or company’s responsibility to make sure their products and services are safe for others to use. In the healthcare environment, this could apply to anything from pharmaceutical or hygiene products, to nursing and personal support services. In other environments, for example an industrial plant, it means being accountable for the health, safety and wellbeing of employees.
Which Healthcare Positions Carry This Designation?
Healthcare workers who deal directly with patients are obviously all subject to a duty of care, in terms of their handling of the patient and using the correct sanitation protocols to prevent the spread of disease. It goes further than that, however, to include administrative functions like diligence in verifying patient identities, entering accurate information into patient records, and maintaining the confidentiality of patients’ personal information.
How Does a Pre-Employment Check Help Ensure Suitable Employees?
Performing a pre-employment check on all potential employees is crucial for companies offering any form of healthcare service. By knowing what the background is of every one of your team members, you can avoid enabling situations where someone with a history of abuse is exposed to vulnerable people. Nathan Sutherland, who has been charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse, underwent extensive background checks before being hired, and no red flags were raised.
If the healthcare facility had not been able to prove this, it could have been liable for huge amounts in damages as a result of its negligence. The facility may still be on the hook for what happened, but at least background checks will help its case. In these days of cybercrime and the high value attached to personal health information, a pre-employment check can also help to protect employers from unintentional distribution of records.
Virginia’s New Law
Virginia is the latest state to tie the unauthorized distribution of personal information to the duty of care concept. The proposed new privacy statute, HB 2793, goes beyond health information and imposes a duty of care on companies to protect all customer information. This will mean requiring pre-employment checks on all future hires in all industries, not only in healthcare. Keep your patients, customers and employees safe from all types of predatory practices by knowing exactly who you are hiring.
For more information on reliable pre-employment checks for prospective employees, please contact us at +1 (800) 295-7109.