What can disqualify you from becoming a nurse? I’m only going to talk about applicants, not people that have already been licensed with the state. This is just going to be kind of a general discussion of, alright, maybe I’m thinking of going to nursing school or maybe I’ve completed nursing school. Now, I must apply to a board. What are some of the things in my past that 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 thing, 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 obviously, any kind of violent crimes, if you were a maybe heavy distributor of drugs in some way, sexual misconduct, those are types of things that are hard to rehabilitate from, or at least in the eyes of the board. And so, having those in your past can be a bar to getting a license ever. When I talk to nurses that are always concerned about DUIs, marijuana possessions, theft, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and maybe an assault charge, it may not feel like it, but these are relatively low-level crimes. And so just because you’ve had some of those in your past, generally will not disqualify you from getting a license in the future. Now, obviously, if you’ve had 20 assault charges, probably not going to happen for you, but if it’s a handful of things from 20 years ago, it’s not going to 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 probationary license, meaning, they would grant the license, but they would also simultaneously put them on probation, which could be one to three years. And at the end of that probationary period, then their license is unencumbered. That’s what normally happens. 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. I know here in Arizona someone must have at least three years from the date of termination of probation of 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 negative publicity events. I mean, I know it sounds strange, but boards of nursing are very concerned about the public image of nurses. And if there’s been past incident with an applicant that sheds negatively upon the nursing profession, that board will be much less likely to issue the license. Most of those end up being criminal in nature, but you need to consider that these are political agencies and the politics of issuing licenses to people that are looked at as either dangerous or incompetent is not something most of the boards are willing to do. Lastly, if you’ve had another healthcare license and you’ve been placed on the OIG exclusionary list, so the office of the inspector general 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’re not going to employ you. So, you need to think, alright, what happened to put me on that exclusionary list? And then you also need to consider there are ways of getting off it after a period and I guess jumping through certain hoops. You need to investigate doing that as well.
Grounds for Permanent Disqualification From State Nursing Programs
There are very few things that can completely disqualify a nurse from getting a license. Most of the boards just want to see, alright, if something bad 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. Other blogs of interest include:
- Can You be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charge?
- What Happens When a Nurse is Reported?
People make mistakes. It’s fine. But if the same thing keeps happening and you’re not learning from it, I mean, at some point you likely have an interview with an investigator from a board if you’ve applied to some criminal history and you just state, I was set up or whatever, making excuses, those are not the things that they want to hear.
Can a felon become a nurse? This is going to deal with people who maybe thinking of going into nursing school and then deciding, 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 what happens if a currently licensed nurse 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. However, it’s going to be state-specific. I’m not going to talk about one state over another. This is going to be a general analysis of what you need to do 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. And then another, it might be a complete bar to getting a nursing license. Before you even go into nursing school, you need to think, what state am I going to want to end up in? And then you need to research the rules of that state to figure out what are the felony conviction issues. In most states, they won’t have a complete bar to license if you’ve had a felony in your past, but what they will do is initiate an investigation and then investigate what happened. What was the reason behind the felony conviction? And obviously, what the felony conviction was is going to be a big determining factor in whether you can get licensed or not. The first thing you probably should do is just call an attorney in the state that you’re thinking of getting licensed in, who deals with nursing board issues.
Background Check Requirements and Healthcare Sanctions Check
Before the board performs a criminal background check, They’re not going to give you an “absolutely you’ll get licensed”, or “there’s no way that you will”, but they can give you some general guidelines of, well, this is what the board has done in the past, these are the rules for the board as far as felonies go, and then maybe what you can do to put yourself in the best position to get licensed. I think that’s probably the most efficient use of your time, but you could go on the board’s website and figure out what the rules are as far as a felony. Some states call it a felony bar. So, maybe type that into the search, something like that. But let’s just say you do apply, they run a criminal background check, it pops up, or almost every application is going to state, if you’ve had a felony, you must disclose it and then you’ll have to provide, usually, the police records, the court documents and then any kind of discharge from probation or any documentation that states you’ve completed whatever the sentence was. Other blogs of interest include:
After you gather all of that, the board will usually want you to write a statement about what happened. And then at some point, you’ll usually have an interview with the board investigator, just kind of go over, alright, well, what were the reasons behind the incident? Now, there are some felony crimes that will probably be a complete bar to you ever getting a license such as any kind of child abuse, sexual misconduct, and sometimes if you were involved in a prescription drug felony involving distribution. You’re going to have access to all the narcotics in the world when you’re a nurse, and so if you have a bunch of criminal convictions in your past about diverting or selling prescription meds or something like that, they’re obviously going to be very concerned about that.
Any super violent crime, adult abuse, like things that are very difficult to rehab from are going to be the biggest problem as far as past felonies go. If you have a drug problem, an alcohol problem, or even domestic violence, you can do anger management, you can do AA, you can do NA, you can get counseling, like things that you can rehabilitate yourself from are much easier to get a license after than if you have things that most people would not consider something you can rehabilitate from, which is abuse, sexual misconduct, maybe some convictions involving honesty like fraud, identity thefts, things like that. Just to kind of recap: first, you need to figure out what state you are going to want to get licensed in, second, probably call an attorney in that state that does nursing board stuff to ask, what are the laws around past felony convictions?
There may not be a bunch of specific things about the past. I know most boards will have specific things that will happen if you’re currently licensed to get a felony, but not all the boards are going to have laws that state, alright, if you have a felony in your past, here’s what’s going to happen, but still talk it over. Where does the board usually look at? What did they do with this type of felony in the past? And then if there are some steps you can take during nursing school, like either going to AA or rehab or counseling that will then set you up and put you in a better position when you ultimately apply for your license, then those are important things that you need to think about.
So, take a deep breath. If you do have a felony, it’s not going to completely bar you from being a nurse most likely. Just kind of do your research and good luck on your nursing career.
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