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If I Have a Criminal Record, Can I Become a Nurse?

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs

If I Have a Criminal Record, Can I Become a Nurse?

Is it possible to become a nurse if you’ve been charged and/or convicted of a crime?
There are several important aspects to the answer.

It may be that you shoplifted a lipstick from the local drug store when you were thirteen. Were any charges filed? Or was it handled just between the store, your parents and you? If you were charged and the case was sealed because you were a juvenile, don’t make assumptions. Find out what’s on your record that can be found.

Have you been involved in a domestic dispute? Were any charges filed against you? What was the result? Were you perhaps arrested for being involved in a public rally or demonstration that got out of hand? Or do you have a record for a DUI or involvement with drugs?

First of all you must be honest about your experience. Before you apply to a nursing program, contact your state board of nursing to discuss your situation. They can advise you as to whether your situation will prevent you from becoming licensed or not and what steps you need to take.

Be prepared to answer honestly and to explain your unique situation. Have all police records, court documentation, etc. at hand to refer to and to send copies if requested. If you have served jail time, provided restitution or been involved in rehabilitation of any kind, you should have all of that information and documentation as well.

Nursing schools will have a question on the application or at some point during the admissions process. Again be prepared to discuss the situation openly and honestly. Have your documentation at hand and present copies if needed. Also provide the information your state board of nursing gave you.

Employers may ask about criminal activity as well and you will again need to be frank and honest about your situation and provide all necessary information.

In some cases, your situation may prevent you from becoming licensed as a nurse, but the state board may also be able to suggest other health career options to explore.

Not all situations will prevent you from becoming licensed. However, the one thing that will be a sure bet to prevent you from becoming a nurse is if you lie or try to cover up any criminal activity you have been involved in. No matter what the crime, if you lie about it, you will most likely never become a nurse.

Nurses are held to a very high standard. Patients entrust their lives to nurses and expect that they are honest, have integrity and are professional. Nurses deal with narcotics and are expected to maintain confidentiality.

Throughout your nursing career you will continue to be held to this standard. Your behavior off duty can be as important to your career as how you conduct yourself on the job. For instance, a DUI can not only cost you a lot of money in fines, legal fees and rehabilitation efforts, but it can cause you to have your license suspended or revoked.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and is the author/owner of

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