IDFPR's Expanded Expungement Rules Don't Eliminate Disciplinary Records for Health Care Workers

IDFPR's Expanded Expungement Rules Can't Erase Licensed Health Care Workers' Disciplinary Records

Last month I wrote about the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s (IDFPR) expanded rules for expunging disciplinary records. In that article, I noted briefly why health care professionals won’t benefit from these changes. The short answer: Blame it on the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

National Data Bank Compiles Records of Health Care Worker Misconduct

Since 1990, licensing agencies and other mandated reporters (e.g., hospitals) have to notify the NPDB whenever it disciplines a licensed health care professional. Originally, the NPDB only collected information on physicians and dentists. Today, the data bank collects information on all licensed health care practitioners.

Once a disciplinary report is submitted to the data bank, the information ordinarily remains for good. The NPDB is only authorized to delete (void) a report in the following instances:

  • Mandated reporter submitted initial report submitted in error,
  • On appeal, a court of law reverses the disciplinary action, or
  • Licensee receives clemency for the underlying criminal offense resulting in disciplinary action.

The Limits to Expunging a Disciplinary Record

Because of the NPDB's role as the clearinghouse for all disciplinary records, the only records expungeable are those on the IDFPR's website (e.g., licensee's public profile). In this situation, expungement refers to the removal of public information. This is similar to what happens when a court orders a criminal record sealed.

As with sealed criminal records, the IDFPR may release expunged records as authorized by law: “Nothing in this Section shall prohibit the Department … from releasing records of a previous discipline upon request from law enforcement, or other governmental body [another state licensing authority] as permitted by law.”

Challenging a Report Sent to NPDB  

Licensees have a right to dispute and/or supplement a disciplinary report submitted to the NPDB. Because heath care employers routinely ask job candidates if they’ve been reported to the NPDB, it's important to know precisely what information the data bank has.

Only certain organization may request records from the NPDB. Licensees can obtain their data bank records by requesting a self-query for $4.00.

Because disciplinary records live on in perpetuity, health care licensees should never ignore or refuse to cooperate with an IDFPR disciplinary investigation.

Many years ago, I represented a nurse accused of altering a prescription by increasing the quantity from 10 to 40 Vicodin tablets. My client refused to admit she’d altered the prescription, making it difficult for me to prepare a defense for her. At the informal hearing, she continued to deny any wrongdoing. The Board suspended my client’s license; the decision left her stunned and speechless. More than 20 years later, neither I nor the NPDB has forgotten what happened to my client.