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Can a Felon Become a Nurse

There are a wide range of reasons why people choose to pursue a career in nursing – chief among them being that they get to help countless people by way of lifesaving care on a daily basis. Few other career opportunities allow you to make the meaningful, long-lasting impact this one does.

In addition to the fact that nursing is a rewarding career path, many people also enjoy it because of the essential skills they pick up along the way, the salary, benefits, and the flexible schedule the field offers.

If you’ve chosen to pursue a nursing career, one thing you’ll want to consider is your background. Case in point: your criminal record. Can a convicted felon become a nurse?

A felony is described as a crime of high seriousness that usually involves violence in some way, although this is not always true. The legal system sees it as more severe than a misdemeanor, and a felony is punishable by at least one-year imprisonment. But even after this part of your life experience is behind you, there may still be ramifications that you have to deal with. There are many reasons why a felony may be a disqualification for a nursing license. Whether it will ultimately impact your ability to become a nurse and follow the career path you are currently seeking will depend on your conviction.

Can You Become a Nurse With a Criminal Record?

The short answer is yes, and the long answer is it depends; ultimately, the answer to the question of can a felon be a nurse depends largely on the specifics of that record itself.

Depending on the precise type of felony you have been convicted of, there isn’t necessarily anything stopping you from becoming a nurse – though you may have to complete a few steps with the State Board of Nursing that others do not.

If your felony conviction has  had anything to do with violence, you may face difficulty getting accepted into a clinic to complete some prerequisites of the job. This also means that getting a nursing license will be an uphill battle, which is problematic since this is one of the major conditions of your employment.

The logic behind this has to do with the working environment you will find yourself in. Once employed as a nurse, you’ll constantly be taking care of and in contact with not only sick adults but likely children as well. You’ll be working with pregnant women, members of the elderly population, you name it. Because of that, hospitals consider someone’s character very seriously before choosing to employ them, and a felony conviction is a relatively significant black mark on that particular record.

Along the same lines, if you were convicted of a felony and had some period of parole as part of your sentence, most areas will require you to wait at least five years before you can apply for a nurse position. Even if you do make it past this initial period, be prepared for your entire background to be thoroughly investigated by the nursing board. They will look over not only your criminal record but also your education history and more to determine whether you should be employed in such an esteemed position moving forward.

Nursing & Disqualifying Factors

The disqualifying factors you’ll have to deal with as you pursue a career as a nurse will vary depending about which specific nursing program you’re talking about. Some will consider any felony conviction an immediate reason to disqualify you, but not all of them will.

Other disqualifications for a nursing license include but are not limited to being registered as a sex offender, multiple instances of drunk driving or driving under the influence, and crimes involving things like weapons and embezzlement.

Can You Be a Nurse With a Misdemeanor?

This, too, will vary depending on the state that you live in and the exact program that you’re participating in. In many situations, a misdemeanor in and of itself will not be enough to disqualify you. But those that will are considered “major,” and are typically crimes that involve one or even more of the following:

  • Crimes that involve weapons of any kind
  • Crimes that involve violence
  • Embezzlement
  • Misappropriation or fraud
  • Sex offenses
What Disqualifies You From Being an RN?

If you’re someone in the process of becoming a nurse with any of the crimes mentioned above on your record, a few things will happen next. First, you need to consider what would disqualify you from getting the education that you need to become a nurse at all. Should you receive that application and then move on to the licensing process, the State Board of Nursing will review your criminal record thoroughly to determine whether you may have done anything to run contrary to the qualifications of getting a license.

While there are now types of criminal convictions that will instantly make becoming a nurse impossible, understand that all factors will be considered very carefully. This is especially true when you get into topics like having previously procured a similar license through fraud or situations where you’ve intentionally misrepresented yourself. All of these would be considered major black marks that would make it very difficult to continue your goal of becoming a nurse.

This also varies depending on the state you’re applying in, with some being more stringent than others. You may also have to go before the board and help provide any context necessary for them to understand your own unique situation fully.

Again, none of this is to say that getting a nursing license after a crime such as one of those outlined above is impossible. However, it will be far more difficult, and you’ll need to go through a much more rigorous process than the average applicant would.

Pursuing Nursing With a Criminal Record

Overall, you shouldn’t necessarily let the fact that you have a felony on your criminal record discourage you from pursuing a career as a nurse. It’s still a noble profession to be in and, in addition to the wide range of personal benefits, you also get to do your part to help provide life-saving care to the people who need it the most.

Having said that, pursuing a nursing career with a criminal record isn’t necessarily easy.  It is possible, even if you do experience your fair share of rejections along the way. But provided that you’re committed to upholding the ideals and values that nurses are famous for, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to succeed moving forward.

To learn more about background checks in the healthcare industry, contact KarmaCheck today.


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