Will a Misdemeanor Hurt My Chances of Nursing School? | Nurse Felony
Hi, my name’s Robert Chelle, and I’m an attorney that assists nurses with the board of nursing investigations. Before a nurse even needs to apply for a nursing board license, they must also get into nursing school. And many nurses ask me, can a misdemeanor hurt my chances of getting into nursing school?
Nursing School Background Check
So, the answer is probably not. What will happen is most nursing schools will run a background check on you. That background check will show any criminal convictions you’ve had and most likely any criminal incidents that led to charges. But not convictions for the past seven years. Now, in this case, I’m guessing anyone concerned about a misdemeanor means they’ve been convicted of it. So, let’s talk about that specifically.
Misdemeanor for Nurses
A misdemeanor is a lower-level crime. You have felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors generally end up with no jail time. It’s usually fine in some DUIs. In Arizona, for instance, you will get jail time, even though it’s a misdemeanor DUI. But for the most part, misdemeanors end up in probation, community service, that type of thing. So, if a misdemeanor did pop up on your background for a nursing school, it’s likely they’d want an explanation. One way of facilitating that is to write out a statement of what happened. Also, if it’s possible, they would want to look at the court documents. So, it might be a good idea to get those in advance. I wouldn’t give those to nursing programs unless they specifically ask for them. Still, having them for the future is not a bad idea. Because it’s extraordinarily likely when you get done with nursing school and apply for license in whatever state you’re in. The board of nursing will go through the same investigation. They will ask for the court documents.
So, it’s a good idea to have a criminal record for the school anyway. What the misdemeanor was will also play a role. They will, obviously, determine whether the nursing school has an issue with that or not. Most misdemeanors for nurses are theft, usually shoplifting, and domestic incidents. So, either domestic violence, disorderly conduct, or disturbing the peace. Something that comes out of a domestic incident between a spouse, a partner, and boyfriend, or girlfriend. You know, something like that.
And then substance abuse-related misdemeanors, DUI, public intoxication, and drug possession. They probably make up 90% of all misdemeanors that nurses have in their past. If there’s not a pattern, you haven’t had five DUIs or an entire string of misdemeanors. Then I would think that most nursing schools honestly would not care at all.
Getting Into a Nursing Program with Past Record
A nursing school wouldn’t want to bring a nurse into the program when they know whatever that nurse did will likely preclude them from getting a license, which makes the school look bad. For the most part, the schools are fine with misdemeanors and to move it forward. After you graduate from nursing schools and move on to get licensed by a board of nursing. And I can say specifically since I deal with the Arizona Board of Nursing. I can’t think of a time when a nurse had one or two misdemeanors in their past. And they didn’t end up getting a license in one way or the other.
It’s when you get into felonies that the boards take a much higher level of scrutiny. And depending upon the timing of the felony could, it could stop you from getting a license.
Other Blogs of Interest
- What Would a Nurse be Subject to if Recently Convicted of a Felony?
- Can you be a Nurse with Misdemeanor Theft?
- Does a DUI Affect your Nursing License?
Can You be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Drug Charge?
Can you be a nurse with a misdemeanor drug charge? This is not going to be state-specific. I’m just going to give you general tips and things to consider if you apply for your nursing license. I know many people reading these blogs may be thinking of going into nursing school. And are thinking, maybe I can get into nursing school, but I can’t get a license. I just wasted a bunch of time and money. So, I will talk more about applicants or even people considering attending nursing school. This won’t direct towards currently licensed nurses.
Alright, so you have a past misdemeanor drug charge which could be a possession of different drugs, potentially distribution. There are some misdemeanor distribution charges as well. If you’ve been convicted, you’ve either gone to trial and lost. Or reached a plea with the prosecutor. Then you had to do community service, fines, get some drug counseling, treatment, etc. The board cares about convictions for the most part and not just charges.
It doesn’t mean they’ve ultimately found you guilty if you’re just charged with a crime. Only when you’ve been convicted, reached a plea, or maybe went into a pretrial diversion program. That’s where most boards find that the nurse, in their minds, would be convicted. Say you’ve had one misdemeanor possession of marijuana from 20 years ago. That won’t keep you from getting your nursing license.
What Does the State Board Usually Look For in Drug Charges?
When a board looks at the criminal pass of a nurse, they’re going to run two things. They’re going to ask in the application, which changes from state to state. But usually, they’ll ask: do you have any felony convictions? And then two, potentially, do you have any misdemeanor charges involving substance abuse? It does vary from state to state. You need to look at the specific language in the application of the state that you’re looking to apply to. And then see what you have to disclose. The board is also going to write a criminal background check. Anything popping up in that criminal background check, they’ll likely reach out and ask for the summary of what happened. And maybe even potentially provide them with the police records or court documents so keep that in mind.
In a board’s mind, what they care about is licensing safe nurses that don’t have drug problems. The board’s stated mission is to protect the public. They’re not there to protect the nurse, so they’ll see how many different misdemeanor drug charges or convictions they have. If you’ve had 15 in the last three years, that is a big problem. You won’t probably get your license.
It’s a Sliding Scale
If you had, as I said, maybe one from 20 years ago, almost no chance you wouldn’t get your license. It’s a sliding scale. You need to consider how much time has elapsed from when you had your last conviction until when you applied. And how many you have. Think, if you did have a drug problem at the time, what have you done to fix the problem?
If a nurse was addicted to methamphetamine doesn’t mean they won’t get a license. But the board certainly wants to know, if you had addiction issues, what did you do to solve that problem? Did you go to AA or NA, or counseling? Did you seek treatment? Maybe you went into inpatient rehab or an intensive outpatient treatment program in IOP. Maybe you’ve made some lifestyle changes, a different friend group, got away from an abusive spouse, or something like that. There must be a change if there’s just a big cluster of drug problems at a time. There must be some rehabilitation change for the board to feel comfortable with issuing a license.
When Charges Are Frequent and More Than Just a Misdemeanor
Say it’s a recent number of drug charges, and they think this nurse hasn’t done what they need to do. It’s possible they could issue the license and put the nurse on simultaneous probation for drug issues. Most states would include random drug testing, supervision at work, continuing education, a nurse recovery group, counseling, rehab, whatever. I mean, there’s a variety of things they could do. Even if you’ve had a bunch of recent things, yet are willing to do everything to get your license. The board can, as I said before, issue the license but put you on probation. It could be anywhere from 12 to 36 months, sometimes more. And if you were to get through that period, it would no longer encumber your license.
One bad thing about being placed on probation is if an alternative to a discipline program is not available. In alternative discipline programs, in most states, there’s a confidential monitoring program where you can do all the things mentioned. But it wouldn’t be public. And it wouldn’t be considered formal discipline. If the board only offers you formal discipline, that will stay in your record forever, at least in most states. So, you think, alright, even if I do get a license if I have this blemish on it forever. Is that going to dampen the chances of me possibly getting the job I want to get? I would say no, but it is more difficult to find a job if you have a disciplinary history.
Before Attending a Nursing School, Get an Attorney to Review Your Drug Charges or Conviction
So, in summary, if you have one or two misdemeanor drug convictions, you’re probably fine. The closer to the date you apply, the more scrutiny you will get from the board. But overall, every situation is a little bit different. What I would suggest, I’m in Arizona, so I only help nurses with the Arizona board.
Before applying to a nursing school, it makes sense to reach out to somebody in the state you’re considering applying. Someone who has experience with nursing board issues, and say, hey, in the past, have you had a similar scenario? And then what is the likelihood of me getting a license once I apply? No one will be able to give you a 100% accurate guess. Still, if someone’s been doing the nursing board for a long time. They can usually give you a decently accurate estimation of whether they think you would get licensed or not. And then maybe if there was disciplinary action attached to that or not.
Can You be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charge?
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.
Things 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.
Getting a License While on Probation
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.
Can a Felon Become a Registered 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.
In most states, they won’t completely bar you to license 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 is going to be a big determining factor in whether you can get licensed or not.
Enrolling in Nursing Schools with a Felony Record
The first thing you should probably do is call an attorney in the state you want to get licensed in who deals with nursing board issues. 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 what you can do to 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 what the rules are 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 is going to state 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 of 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. Now, some felony crimes will probably completely bar you from ever getting a license. Any kind of child abuse, sexual misconduct, and involving yourself in the distribution of prescription drug felonies are some examples. You’re going to 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’re going to be very concerned about that.
Criminal Records that Pose the Biggest Obstacle to Becoming an RN
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 that 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.
Just to recap. First, you need to figure out what state you would like to get licensed in. Second, call an attorney in that state knowledgeable about the nursing board. Ask them, what are the laws 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 currently licensed and then get a felony. But not all the boards are going to 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? If there are 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 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 with your nursing career.
Arizona Nursing Board Questions?
Complaints, Investigations, Appeals and more!