Healthcare Workers and COVID-19

Governor JB Pritzker Calls for More Healthcare Workers: What does that mean for people with criminal records?

In the wake of the spread of COVID-19, Governor Pritzker has called for anyone with a background in health care to join the fight.  As Illinois works to increase hospital capacity,  the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation(IDFPR) has now waived reinstatement fees, changed continuing education requirements to allow for online or virtual classes, and provided expedited processes for people whose licenses are expired or inactive. Clearly these are unprecedented times. The healthcare industry is in dire need for licensed and unlicensed healthcare workers willing to step up during this time of crisis. With this increase of demand in the healthcare industry the question arises – what does it mean for people with criminal records?

For people with misdemeanor and felony convictions who want to enter the healthcare industry there have always been unique challenges. Healthcare positions, licensed and unlicensed, are desirable because they are always in demand and typically offer financial stability. But the licensing and application processes can be confusing and discouraging. The good news is that  people with felony and misdemeanor convictions, can and do, work in healthcare!                 

UNLICENSED HEALTHCARE POSITIONS – Basics for people with past convictions: (certified nursing assistants, medical assistants, phlebotomists, janitorial and food service staff in medical facilities, , home healthcare workers, and others)

  • If you have a disqualifying conviction, there is a waiver available through the Illinois Department of Public Health that will allow you to work in healthcare, even if you have a conviction that would normally disqualify you; 
  • Not all convictions are “disqualifying” under the law. A full list is available here:
  •  Healthcare worker waivers are granted frequently – if they are submitted with the right information or support; 
  •  Depending on conviction type, the process typically takes 2 to 6 weeks  (it is unclear whether this process will be expedited during the current crisis); 
  • If your disqualifying conviction has been sealed or expunged, you do not require a waiver to work in healthcare – this is true regardless of conviction type (including violent convictions).

LICENSED HEALTHCARE POSITIONS – Basics for people with past convictions: (doctors, physician assistants, registered nurses, licensed professional nurses, radiologists, respiratory therapists, and others)

  •  If a person has been disciplined or lost a medical license due to arrests, convictions, or misconduct, there are  opportunities to get it back in good standing;
  • IDFPR cannot consider sealed or expunged felony or misdemeanor convictions in deciding whether to issue a license;
  •  Even if felony and misdemeanor convictions have not been sealed or expunged, IDFPR can and will often still issue a license or a probationary license. However, applicants navigating this process often benefit from the assistance of an experienced attorney; 
  • IDFPR has certain factors it must look at when making a decision whether to grant a license; 
  • After IDFPR issues an intent to deny letter, there is an opportunity to appeal the intent to deny in order to present additional information as to why a person’s license should be issued despite prior convictions.  

Don’t let your prior arrests or convictions stand in your way of joining the fight to save lives in the wake of COVID-19!

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