I want to preface this post just by saying how wonderful, helpful, and beneficial allnurses.com is in connecting like minded people from all over the world. This site has helped me tremendously when I myself tried to navigate the sometimes murky waters of the medical field as a pre-nursing student, nursing student, and finally an RN. So in that spirit, I just wanted to share my experience of how I earned my RN license in the state of California with a not-so spotless record in the hopes that it might help others facing the same dilemma.
My record is nearly 10 years old at this point, and I don't how important this factors in to the BRN's decision. Probably like many, there was a rebellious time period in my life where I partied much in my teenage years. As a result, I made many mistakes and was arrested several times. Without going into too much detail, I have 1 felony, 2 misdemeanors, and 1 infarction on my record. The felony was a serious one, and I had to spend 90 days in the county jail (no one was hurt). Even still, my record was always on the back of my mind. But especially throughout my 4-year academic journey, as I was aware that I may be denied to sit for the NCLEX. I know for many in similar situations this may seem like a daunting task, but I am here to say that it is extremely possible.
If you are up for the struggle, I will share my experience of how I became successful in this endeavor.
Always ask for advice:
There are so many who have done it, and are more than happy to tell you how they did it. Everyone I met who had similar goals, I always asked for tips; what is the best and most effective way to achieve an objective?. Often, I would get advice that was so instrumental to my success. The first advice I got, which was what kept me going was...
I have a relative who is an experienced RN. She told me if I prove myself, the BRN will not deny me. She knew many co-workers who lost their license for worse offenses, and were able to get it back. This is not to say it is easy. I have also heard many other stories of how licenses were lost for innocent mistakes, and were never restored.
Meet with a Counselor:
I met with a counselor at my local community college. I told him my goals, and he laid out my entire academic plan for prerequisite classes. I followed it exactly and took all the classes: English, philosophy, math, chemistry, biology, microbiology, anatomy, physciology, etc. These took me 2 years to finish, full load for spring, summer, and fall semester. No rests.
Get Straight A's in prereq classes:
A friend once told me that if I got straight A's in my prereq classes, I would get into a nursing program right away. And so that's what I did, and that's what happened. I got all straight A's (except for one B in microbiology). I applied to 10 nursing programs in Los Angeles and Orange County. I got accepted into 2 programs, and was an alternate in a 3rd. I never waited on a waitlist.
Meet with the Director of the nursing program:
I figured that if there were any issues, they would be the best person to consult you. Once I accepted the offer for the program, I made an appointment to see the director. I told her everything about what I did, and asked about clinical placements and possible BRN application denial. She did not discourage me at all. In fact, she told me she has not heard of the BRN denying an application for an old felony YET. I never encountered any issues with clinical placements throughout my 2 years in this program.
Maintain Good grades in nursing school:
My graduating GPA was 3.7. This goes back to the point of proving yourself. Talk to everyone. Meet and be friends with others in the program, they will help you in times of need. I witnessed this first hand in my own program: the lone wolf does not do as well.
Expunge your record:
I suggest to do this as soon as you can. During 4th semester was when I became confident that I was actually going to graduate. I expunged my record around this time and it barely made it through on time. Go to the courthouse, ask for the expungement document, fill it out, and return it back to them. They will schedule a court hearing to decide. Some time has to pass in order for your record to be expunge-able.
Prepare your Documents:
I started collecting all my court/police reports during 4th semester. For EACH case, you need 1 court report and 1 police report. I had 4 cases, and so a total of 8 documents. Go to the court house that handled your case and ask for the report, sometimes they charge you for the printout and sometimes they don't. Go to the arresting police agency for the police report, sometimes they give you the report and sometimes they give you a document stating they won't give you the report (send either document to the BRN).
Letter of Recommendations:
Get and stay on your instructor's good side. All my instructors were awesome. They were all seasoned nurses with so many stories to tell. As I was beginning to graduate, I wrote them a passionate and honest letter explaining what I did and why I needed a letter of recommendation. I also told them why it was important for me to become a nurse. As I think back, this letter probably gave them some substance to write off of because the letters they wrote for me were all very good. I collected 4 recommendation
Letters of explanation:
I think you would have to look deep within yourself on this one. For me, there was a powerful event in my life that made me want to become a nurse. I detailed this event in my letter, and tied it in with my explanations of what happened.
Join the RN club:
I think this shows initiative. I joined the RN club where I helped coordinate activities, tutored fellow students, and raised funds for the club. My instructors were aware of this, and they included this in their recommendation letters. I also included this in my explanation letter.
Stay out of trouble:
I knew a friend in another nursing program who got arrested for a DUI during his third semester. In his case, the BRN denied his application and stated that they wanted him to finish the majority of this probation period before they would let him sit for the NCLEX.
Understand that people change:
I know this might sound obvious, but people change. I am so far and so different from the person I was nearly 10 years ago. People and things change whether one likes it or not, that is a fact of life. Believe in yourself. People make mistakes. I try my hardest to forgive everyone because I know that I myself am not perfect, and would like it for others to forgive me.
To end this post, the BRN never gave me any problems with my application. My school sent them my transcripts, they reviewed for less than 5 days, and I received my ATT to take the NCLEX soon right after. I spent 6 weeks studying, took the NCLEX, waited 3 days for my results, and saw my license posted the their Breeze website (no restrictions). I hope any of this helps anyone out there. I have always loved science, and valued health. The skills and training in nursing school can be applied to so many other things, including yourself and your family. To other peoples with similar goals, God speed and God bless!!
Last edit by tnbutterfly on Dec 3, '17
Dec 8, '17
I love stories like yours. Stories where people genuinely change, and put in the time and hard work necessary to change their own lives and circumstances. Congratulations!
Dec 10, '17
When I was in nursing school they adopted a zero tolerance policy. Right before we went into the program a few people were dropped and not allowed in. One guy threatened a lawsuit bc he said they knew about his record yet let him continue to do his pre requisites costing him lots of $ which they were not returning to him. He never did become a nurse. The other had a minor in possession charge and I don't know what became of her. Schools thought was why should we waste your time and ours bc in the end you wouldn't be allowed to take the NCLEX.
Dec 10, '17
Congrats! When you fill out job applications and they ask if you ever been arrested do you have to answer yes?
Dec 10, '17
When you fill out job applications and they ask if you've ever been arrested do you have to answer yes?