June 22, 2024

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Florida Legislation Will Increase Background Screening for Healthcare Professionals | Insights

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House Bill 975, if signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will have a significant impact on the Florida criminal background screening requirements for healthcare professionals and facilities. Currently, only certain healthcare professionals are required to undergo background screening as a requirement for licensure. Such professionals include the following: allopathic and osteopathic physicians, interns and fellows, physician assistants, chiropractic physicians and assistants, orthotists and prosthetists, podiatric physicians and podiatric x-ray assistants, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, athletic trainers and massage therapists. However, the majority of healthcare professionals licensed by the Florida Department of Health are not required to undergo background screening as part of their initial licensure requirements.

If the bill becomes law, additional healthcare professionals licensed by the Department of Health will be required to undergo background screening as a requirement for initial licensure. The bill will also require certain individuals who are seeking licensure by endorsement to undergo background screening. Specifically, the following additional professionals will be required to undergo background screening:

  • naturopaths
  • optometrists
  • pharmacists
  • dentists and dental hygienists
  • midwives
  • occupational therapists
  • opticians
  • physical therapists
  • speech-language pathologists
  • nursing home administrators
  • respiratory therapists
  • dieticians
  • electrologists
  • clinical laboratory personnel
  • medical physicists
  • genetic counselors
  • hearing aid specialists
  • psychologists
  • clinical social workers
  • marriage and family therapists
  • mental health counselors
  • psychotherapists

Upon becoming law, such healthcare professionals licensed prior to July 1, 2024, will be required to complete the background screening requirements by July 1, 2025.

Potential Impact

This legislation will likely have a significant impact on healthcare professionals and facilities. For instance, if a healthcare professional has a disqualifying offense on his or her criminal record, the individual would be ineligible for employment. The individual would need to obtain an exemption from the appropriate state agency to be employed in a profession or workplace where background screening is statutorily required. Circumstances under which the head of an agency may grant an exemption from disqualification are very limited, and persons who are considered a sexual predator, career offender or registered sexual offender are ineligible for exemption.

Licensed healthcare facilities will need to update their background screening policies to ensure that these professionals undergo background screening. Such screening records, including the applicable employee roster, must be maintained and updated as necessary. Failure to comply with the statutory background screening requirements is one of the violations facilities are routinely cited for during a licensure survey.

For more information on this bill, or if you need any assistance with a review of your policies and procedures, please contact the authors or another member of Holland & Knight’s Healthcare Regulatory Compliance Team.

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