CHICAGO — Felony convictions will no longer prevent someone in Illinois from acquiring a health care-related professional license thanks to a new law that amends the rules overseen by the state's Department of Professional Regulation.
Previous rules stipulated that anyone convicted of a felony such as battery, burglary or first-degree murder could never be licensed as a health care professional in order to protect patients and health care consumers.
Now, only convicted felons who are required to register as sex offenders or were involved in the involuntary sexual servitude of a minor will not be allowed to receive a professional license.
Under the new law, qualified felons will have to send a request for licensure to the Illinois Department of Financial Regulation (IDFPR), which will review several aspects of the felon's criminal history, including the seriousness of the offense, number of offenses committed, how many people were hurt by the offense, the vulnerability of the victims, the motives of the crime and several other factors.
“It applies to all manner of health care professionals," Christina Kuta, an attorney at Roetzel and Andress in Chicago, told the Cook County Record. "Nurses, doctors, physical therapists, physician assistants, etc. all are impacted by this change in the law.”
While there are concerns that employers will no longer be able to assume that licensed healthcare professionals have not been convicted of a felony, the new law could benefit the healthcare industry, Kuta said.
“The potential benefit lies in the fact that more individuals will be given the opportunity to pursue a health care career or continue in a current health care career," Kuta said. "There is no question that we face a shortage of health care workers in many fields. The opportunity to expand the number of persons able to enter into health care workforce is a positive impact."
Kuta said it is difficult to tell if the new law will “bring about an increased legal risk” for health care organizations who hire someone with a criminal past and could possibly commit another crime.
“The fact is that anyone can file a lawsuit, but that does not mean that such lawsuit will be successful," Kuta said. "The fact that an employer hired a licensed health care professional with a criminal record in and of itself does not mean they are liable automatically for that employee’s actions.”
It is unclear how many additional people now qualify for licenses under the new law.