Can you become a nurse with a misdemeanor domestic violence charge? First, I use the word “charge” in the title because that’s what people search for, but I think many nurses confuse a charge with a conviction. But what most boards care about are convictions, not charges.
Charged vs. Convicted
A charge is just when you’ve been accused of a crime but haven’t been found guilty. Whereas a conviction generally is when you’ve signed a plea agreement, you’ve been found guilty at trial, or maybe even entered a pretrial diversion program. Most boards consider that a conviction. So, you haven’t just been charged. You’ve been convicted of domestic violence.
I’m just going to give a brief and general overview of what boards look at when reviewing past criminal incidents for a nurse. And then also, specifically, domestic violence because it happens honestly frequently. And this is going to be directed toward applicants. People that are maybe thinking about going to nursing school and determining whether they’ll ultimately be able to get a license with the board or you’ve already finished school, and you’re about to apply for your first board wondering if you’ll get a license.
Just to kind of allay any fears, it would be very uncommon for someone to have a domestic violence conviction in their past and still not be able to get a license with the nursing board. It would have to be a combination of other criminal incidents, or maybe you’ve had a string like ten domestic violence convictions or something like that. If you’ve just had a couple of domestic violence incidents, it is extraordinarily unlikely it would stop you from getting a nursing license.
What the Nursing Board Will Ask Future Nurses to Disclose
What happens is, on any application, it will ask you to disclose past criminal incidents. Now, what they ask you to disclose varies from state to state. Nearly all states ask for felony convictions, and not all states ask for misdemeanor convictions. You need to check the application’s wording and see what they asked you to disclose. Just because you didn’t or don’t have to disclose a past domestic violence conviction doesn’t mean that they’re not going to investigate it because what they’ll do is they’re going to run a criminal background check. And if that incident pops up, they will likely contact you to discuss it. Some states don’t care about small misdemeanor stuff where there wasn’t a string of incidents, but others will want a detailed statement from you about what happened. And then they’ll likely want the police report and the court documents.
Defining Domestic Violence
When you say domestic violence, it sounds bad, but honestly, it’s almost anything that can happen in your home. It could be between a parent and a child, it could be between a boyfriend and a girlfriend, or it could be between spouses or relatives. And in violence, it’s a broad term, but it doesn’t mean there has to be a hugely aggressive act towards the other. It could just be an argument that led to some screaming, and then a neighbor calls the cops, and then they come in, and then maybe one of them or whoever you’re in the incident with was intoxicated in some way, and maybe you push them.
It could go a bunch of ways, but it doesn’t just mean there was a knockout drag-fist fight that led to a domestic violence charge. I’ve had people who they’ve thrown something at their partner, and they considered that to be domestic violence. As I said before, the board will care about how often this has happened the most. How long ago was it? The longer the time between your last criminal incident and when you apply, the better. If you’ve had three domestic violence incidents in the last year, that will be a huge red flag for the board. Whereas if you had one 20 years ago, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that they’re going to care at all about it.
Articles That the Nursing Board Will Care About the Most
They will care about whether the nurse was or the nurse applicant was under the influence. Most of the time, drugs or alcohol are usually involved in domestic violence incidents. And so, what the board will be concerned about is if that is the case, it will be written in the police report. I can tell you that. And in the report, it’s going to make you sound like the biggest drunk of all time.
What the nursing boards will likely do is if there is a lot of detail about you being intoxicated during the incident or if you have a string of these incidents. You’re intoxicated in every one of them. The board will be concerned that you have a substance abuse issue. And then that gives into concerns about providing safe patient care. The underlying domestic violence charge or conviction, as long as it’s a relatively low number, is honestly not that big a deal.
Is It Because of a Substance Abuse Issue?
But if all of these were precipitated because of substance abuse, that’s the problem that you’re going to have. You’ll have to explain your current use of drugs and alcohol, your past use of drugs and alcohol, any other incidents you’ve had, and any work-related concerns about impairment. They will ask you very specific questions: how often do you drink? What do you drink? How many do you drink? How does that make you feel? Have you been intoxicated in the last 12 months? And the same for drugs as well. That’s what the nurse needs to prepare for if any of those domestic violence incidents involving drugs or alcohol get into those things because those are concerns that boards care about. And those are things that can stop a nurse from either getting licensed or they may have to go on probation for a period.
If a board is reviewing an applicant, then they have a history of drug and alcohol use, and the board is concerned. They can grant the license but also simultaneously put the nurse on probation, and then they’re monitored, drug testing, AA, nurse recovery groups, and supervised at work, which can last a year to 36 months. It just depends. Overall, having a domestic violence conviction in your past will not bar you from getting a license. Most likely, however, those complicating factors with drugs and alcohol, frequency, how many incidents you had, and then how close it was in time to when you applied are the things that ultimately will matter. So, that’s a kind of a brief description of how a domestic violence commission can affect a nursing applicant.
Other Blogs of Interest
- Nursing Law: Can you be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Assault Charge?
- Nursing Reports: What Happens When a Nurse is Reported?
- Can you be a Nurse with a DUI?
What Can Disqualify You From Being a Nurse?
What can disqualify you from being a nurse? I’m only going to talk about applicants, not people already licensed by the state. This video will be a general discussion of, alright, maybe I’m thinking of attending nursing school, or perhaps I’ve completed nursing school. Now, I must apply to a board. What things in my past can disqualify me from being a nurse in the future? Lastly, this is not going to be state-specific. It’s just going to be a general discussion.
The first and probably the most obvious thing is some heinous criminal incidents in your past. Almost none of the boards in any state contain a list of things like, if you’ve done these things, you can’t get a license. No matter what, they’ll have a general guideline. But, any violent crimes, if you were a maybe heavy distributor of drug diversion in some way. For instance, sexual misconduct is brutal to rehabilitate from, or at least in the eyes of the board. And so, having those in your past can be a barrier to getting a license.
Getting a Nursing License After A Crime
It may not feel like it when I talk to nurses who are always concerned about DUIs, marijuana possessions, theft, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and an assault charge, but these are relatively low-level crimes. Because you’ve had those in your past, they generally will not disqualify you from getting a license in the future. Now, if you’ve had 20 assault charges, it’s probably not going to happen for you. Still, if it’s a handful of things from 20 years ago, it will not hinder you from getting your nursing license.
And even in this scenario where the board was very concerned about past behavior, they would almost always offer the nurse a probationary license, meaning they would grant the license. Still, they would simultaneously put them on probation for one to three years. And at the end of that probationary period. Then their license is unencumbered. That’s what happens typically.
I guess the timing of the felony would matter. Some states require a certain period after either the felony. I think the nurse or potential nurse was either convicted of the felony or completed the probationary requirements. I know here in Arizona, someone must have at least three years from the date of termination of probation for a felony to be eligible to reapply or apply for a nursing license.
Nursing Background Check, Criminal Records, and State License
The first things are heinous crimes, and two, high adverse publicity events. Boards of nursing are very concerned about the public image of nurses. And suppose there’s been a past incident with an applicant that negatively impacts the nursing profession. In that case, that board will be much less likely to issue the license. Most of those end up being criminals. Still, it would help if you considered that these are political agencies and the politics of issuing permits to people gives the eye. Either dangerous or incompetent is not something most boards are willing to do.
When the State Revokes Your Nursing License
Lastly, if you’ve had another healthcare license and you’ve been placed on the OIG exclusionary list. So the inspector general’s office has this list where if you’ve had a license revoked, suspended, voluntary surrender, or a certain number of crimes. They can exclude you from billing under Medicare or Medicaid. The boards, for the most part, don’t care about that at all. However, the employers, or at least some employers, will. If they can’t bill for you, they will not employ you. So, you need to think, alright, what happened to put me on that exclusionary list? And then you also need to consider ways of getting off it after a period and jumping through certain hoops. It would be best if you investigated doing that disqualify as well.
Very few things can completely disqualify a nurse from getting a license. Most of the boards want to see if something terrible happened. Have you learned from it? Did you take steps to remediate the behavior in some way? If it was maybe drugs or alcohol, did you go to AA? Did you go to counseling? Did you go to an intensive outpatient treatment program or rehab? Have you made just healthy changes in your lifestyle so that you can deal with stress better? These are the things the boards want to hear. Just because you’ve had one bad thing happen in your past, if you’ve learned from it and incorporated positive things into your life, that’s what the boards want to see.
Can a Felon Become a Nurse?
This is going to deal with people who may be thinking of going into nursing school. They might decide, alright, maybe I can get into nursing school. But will getting a license from a state be a problem down the road? I’m not going to focus on a currently licensed nurse who gets a felony. In short, if you do have a felony in your past, can it completely bar you from becoming a nurse? The short answer is no. But, it’s going to be state-specific. I’m not going to talk about one state over another. This will be a general analysis of how to determine if you can get a license or not.
First, every state is going to have different rules, unfortunately. So if you apply to one state, it might be no problem. With another, it might be a complete bar to getting licensed. Before you go into nursing school, you must think, what state do I want to end up in? Then you need to research the rules of that state to figure out what felony conviction issues there are.
Most states won’t completely bar you from licensing if you’ve had a past felony. But they will initiate an investigation and then investigate. What was the reason behind the conviction? That conviction will be a determining factor in whether you can get licensed or not.
Call a Criminal Defense Attorney
You should probably call an attorney who deals with nursing board issues in the state you want to get licensed. They’re not going to give you a “you will get licensed” or “there’s no way” answer. But they can give you some general guidelines of what they’ve done before. The rules they’ve followed as far as felonies go. Also, you can put yourself in the best position to get licensed. That’s the most efficient use of your time.
You could also go on the board’s website and find out the rules for felonies. Some states call it a “felony bar,” so Google that. But let’s say you do apply. They run a criminal background check, and it pops up. Almost every application states that if you’ve had a felony, you must disclose it. Then you’ll need to provide police records, court documents, or any documentation saying you’ve completed your sentence.
After you gather all that, the board usually wants you to write a statement about what happened. At some point, you’ll have an interview with the board investigator. They will inquire about the reasons behind the incident. Some felony crimes will probably completely bar you from ever getting a license. Any child abuse, sexual misconduct, and involving yourself in the distribution of prescription drug felonies are some examples. You will have access to all the narcotics in the world when you’re a nurse. So if you have any convictions before with diverting or selling prescription meds, they will be very concerned about that.
Convictions that Pose the Biggest Obstacle to Becoming a Nurse
Super violent crimes, adult abuse, or things that are difficult to rehabilitate from, are the biggest problem for past felonies. If you have drugs, alcohol, or domestic violence problems, you can do anger management, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or counseling. Things you can rehabilitate from are much easier to get a license after. Meanwhile, abuse, sexual misconduct, convictions involving honesty like fraud, and identity theft, are things some people won’t consider something you can rehab from.
To recap. First, you must figure out what state you want to be licensed in. Second, call an attorney in that state knowledgeable about the nursing board. Ask them what the laws are around past felony convictions there.
There may not be a bunch of specific rules about the past. I know most boards will have specific implementations if you’re licensed and then get a felony. But not all the boards will have laws that state what’s going to happen if you’ve had a past felony. But still, talk it over. Where does the board usually look? What did they do with this type of felony in the past? Are there some steps you can take during nursing school, like either going to AA, rehab, or counseling? Things that will then set you up and put you in a better position when you ultimately apply for your license. Those are important things that you need to think about.
So, take a deep breath. If you have a felony, it will not bar you from being a nurse completely. Just do your research and good luck with your nursing career.
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