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’m going to talk about people that have a misdemeanor in their past, and then are going to apply for their first LPN, RN, CNA, that type of thing with the board. Let’s just talk about the application process. Normally, on almost any nursing board application, it’s going to state, one, have you ever had any felonies and you’ll have to disclose those.
And then two, this is going to be the important language. It may ask if you’ve ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or some will just 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 then determine if the misdemeanor does need to be disclosed. Now, every board is going to run criminal background check. I find 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 a lot of my nurses is, alright, well, I failed to disclose this thing from 25 years ago, I should have disclosed it. It popped up on the background check and then the board initiated an investigation and asked for me to explain, one, what happened and then two, why I failed to disclose it.
One thing you might want to do is 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 that should have been disclosed. And then that could open you up to discipline. Meaning the board could say, yes, we’ll grant you the license, but we’re going to 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, kind of the next analysis is, well, what’s the likelihood of you not getting licensed because of a past misdemeanor.
As I said before, 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 that 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 kind of 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 and it was 20 years ago when you were 19, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that that’s going to stop you from getting a nursing license.
There are scenarios where you have had several misdemeanors in your past, let’s just say someone has had three DUIs. So, they had three DUIs maybe 10 years ago. In that time period, well, the board is going to 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 kind of rehab or IOP? Things like that. They want to see if you did have short burst of problems, which happens a lot if someone does have substance abuse issues or maybe there’s something going on in their life that’s leading to the substance abuse, maybe an abusive relationship or mental health issue. The board is going to want to see, alright, have you dealt with the problems that happened in the past?
And then do we think that you are threat to patient safety moving forward? The shorter the time between a criminal incident and then the license application, the worse it is for the nurse. So, if you had three DUIs within the last year, well, the board is going to have an enormous concern that the nurse has alcohol-related problem, and they may deny just flat out or the other scenario would be, 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 will have to be monitored for a period of time, which could be six months all the way up to three years, some states more.
And then they’ll state, you’ll have to do drug testing and there’ll be supervision at work, and you may have to do AA or a nurse recovery group or you can’t pass narcs, or whatever. There may be restrictions on the license, but they’ll also likely grant it as well. It is very rare that 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 obviously made some proactive steps to stop what the issues were, the board will look favorably upon that as well. So, in short, will a misdemeanor hurt your chances of getting a license? Well, yes, it’ll make it harder, but it certainly is unlikely to be a complete bar to getting licensed.
Once again, we’re located in Arizona, so this can’t help you in any other states, but I think this is good general information for any nurse, as far as the things to think about if you do have a criminal past. I would suggest if you’re really 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 be, or it’s unlikely that the board is even going to give me a license. In that scenario, reach out to an attorney that does nursing board work in your state and just 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 and then apply and have no chance of getting a license due to whatever the past criminal incidents are, that obviously would be a terrible scenario. And I hate for that to happen to anybody.
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