Can you be a nurse with a misdemeanor in your past? So, two things: one, this is not state specific. This is just general information about what most boards will consider. And then two, this is only going to be directed towards applicants. I’m not going to talk about what happens if you’re currently a licensed nurse and get a misdemeanor. I’ll talk about people that have a misdemeanor in their past. Then they will apply for their first LPN, RN, CNA, that type of thing with the board. Let’s just talk about the application process. Normally, almost any nursing board application states, have you ever had any felonies, and you’ll have to disclose those.
It Varies From State to State
And then two, this is going to be the important language. It may ask if you’ve ever been convicted of a misdemeanor. Some will say, have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor involving drugs or alcohol? Each state is a little bit different. You need to look at the specific language and determine if the misdemeanor needs to get disclosed. Now, every board is going to run a criminal background check. From state to state, the sensitivity of that check varies wildly. So, in one state, something could pop up whereas, in another, it doesn’t pop up at all. One consideration for many nurses is that I failed to disclose this thing 25 years ago. I should have disclosed it. It popped up on the background check, and then the board initiated an investigation and asked me to explain what happened and why I failed to disclose it.
You might want to find an attorney in your state that handles nursing board cases. And then, if you don’t know if you need to disclose something or not, talk to them and see if it meets the threshold. What you don’t want to do is fail to disclose something you should have. And then that could open you up to discipline. The board could say, yes, we’ll grant you the license. Still, we’ll formally discipline you for failing to disclose a past criminal incident that you should have disclosed. So, that’s the first thing you need to think about. Alright, what does the application say? And then do I need to disclose it or not? Now, the next analysis is, what’s the likelihood of you not getting licensed because of a past misdemeanor?
Depending on the Conviction, You Can Still Get Your License
As I said, almost every board will make a nurse disclose felonies. And depending upon what the felony is, it could mean that a nurse absolutely will not get their license. Now, just because you’ve had a felony in your past doesn’t mean you won’t get your nursing license. That’s not a guarantee. It would depend upon the nature of the felony, how long ago it was, that type of thing. As far as a misdemeanor goes, it’s very unlikely that any misdemeanor in your past would completely bar you from getting a nursing license. What could prevent that would be if there are a bunch of misdemeanors.
If you’ve had dozens of convictions for various things in your past, then obviously, yes. That could affect whether you get your nursing license or not. If you’ve had one, it was 20 years ago when you were 19. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that that will stop you from getting a nursing license.
There are scenarios where you have had several misdemeanors in your past. Let’s say someone has had three DUIs. So, they had three DUIs maybe 10 years ago. In that period, the board will ask a whole bunch of questions about your use of drugs and alcohol. So, how much do you certainly drink? When was the last time you were intoxicated? Did you ever go into AA? Did you ever do any rehab or IOP? Things like that. They want to see if you did have a short burst of problems. This happens often if someone has substance abuse issues or something is happening in their life that’s leading to the substance abuse. Maybe an abusive relationship or mental health issue. The board will want to see, alright, have you dealt with the problems that happened in the past?
Demands of Nursing Board to Applicants With Criminal Past
And then, do we think you’re a threat to patient safety moving forward? The shorter the time between a criminal incident and the license application, the worse it is for the nurse. So, suppose you had three DUIs within the last year, well. In that case, the board will be enormously concerned that the nurse has an alcohol-related problem. They may deny flat out, or the other scenario, that the board would offer probation and then simultaneously grant the license. If you did have substance abuse-related crimes in your past, the board could say, look, we’re willing to give you a license. However, you are under monitoring for a period of time, which could be six months up to three years or more.
And then they’ll state, you’ll have to do drug testing, there’ll be supervision at work, and you may have to do AA or a nurse recovery group. You can’t pass narcs. There may be restrictions on the license, but they’ll likely grant it. Rarely someone’s criminal past would completely prevent them from getting a nursing license. If the nurse is willing to go on probation in some situations, then it shouldn’t matter. And if they’ve made some proactive steps to stop what the issues were, the board will look favorably upon that as well. So, will a misdemeanor hurt your chances of getting a license? Yes, it’ll make it harder, but it is unlikely to be a complete bar to getting licensed.
Ask for Legal Opinions Before Becoming a Nursing Student
Once again, our location is in Arizona, so this can’t help you in any other state. Still, this is good general information for any nurse regarding what to think about if you have a criminal past. I would suggest if you’re concerned, especially sometimes, they’ll get calls from people who are interested in going into nursing school. And saying, alright, well, I don’t want to go into nursing school if I’m going to be, or it’s unlikely that the board will even give me a license. In that scenario, reach out to an attorney that does nursing board work in your state and say, hey, what’s your experience with someone with this type of crime? Do you think it’s worth it? Is it okay if I go to nursing school? What’s the likelihood that I’ll be able to get my license?
That’s valuable information. I mean, to go to nursing school and then spend all that money and time. Then applying and having no chance of getting a license due to past criminal incidents would be a terrible scenario. And I hate for that to happen to anybody.
Other Blogs of Interest
What Can Disqualify You From Being a Nurse?
What can disqualify you from becoming a nurse? I’m only going to talk about applicants, not people the state has already licensed. This will be a general discussion of maybe I’m thinking of going to nursing school, or maybe I’m still a nursing student or graduate nursing education. Now, I must apply to a board. What are some of the things in my past that can disqualify me from being a future nurse? 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 as a nurse. No matter what the case, they’ll have a general guideline. But, any violent crimes, if you were a maybe heavy distributor of drugs in some way, sexual misconduct. Those are things that are hard to rehabilitate from, or at least in the eyes of the board. And so, having those in your past could be a barrier to getting a nursing license.
Getting a License After A Crime
When talking to nurses who are always concerned about DUI, marijuana possessions, theft, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and an assault charge. It may not feel like it, but these are relatively low-level crimes. Just because you’ve had some of those in your past generally will not disqualify you from getting a nursing license. 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, their license was unencumbered. That’s what normally the case is.
The Board Is Concerned About Public Image
I guess the timing of the felony would matter. Some states require a certain period after either the felony. I guess the nurse or potential nurse was either convicted of the felony or completed the probationary requirements. In Arizona, someone must have at least three years from the date of termination of probation. That is for a felony case to be eligible to reapply or apply for a nursing license.
The first things are heinous crimes, and two, high negative 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. The politics of issuing licenses to people considered dangerous or incompetent is not something most boards are willing to do since they are also after the public’s health.
When the State Revokes Your License
Lastly, if you’ve had another healthcare license and you’ve been placed on the OIG exclusionary list. 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 nursing 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’ll 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. You need to investigate doing that disqualify as well.
Very few things can completely disqualify a nurse from getting a license. Most nursing boards want to see if something bad happened and whether you learned from it. Did you take steps to remediate the behavior in some way? If it was maybe drugs or alcohol like DUI, did you go to AA? Did you go to counseling? Did you go to an intensive outpatient treatment program or rehab? Have you made healthy changes in your lifestyle to 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 nursing boards want to see.
People make mistakes. It’s fine. But if the same thing keeps happening and you’re not learning from it. At some point, you’ll have an interview with an investigator from a nursing board if you’ve applied for some criminal history. You state I was framed, making excuses. They don’t want to hear those things.
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