RN license with criminal record

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    I know this topic has been discussed ad nauseum but wanted to add my story to help those who have a record who are thinking about nursing school or are going to apply for a license. This has been my experience with the Oregon BON so I can't vouch for any other state but I would think they all have similar standards.

    I have 4 DUIs in my background at various points in my life. I knew before I even started nursing school that I would have an uphill battle and here are some of the lessons I've learned:

    1. You CAN get a license, but you are almost guaranteed a license on probation and participation in the monitoring program. Accept it and be grateful for the opportunity to practice at all.
    2. You need to have at least 2 years of continuous, documented sobriety...this means proof of treatment, support groups, random U/As.
    3. You have to appear before the board and state your case. This is your opportunity to tell your story...what happened, what you've done to change your life, and how you plan on maintaining your sobriety. Depending on their schedule, it could take up to 3 months from the time you take your NCLEX to actually get a license in hand, so have an employment backup plan.
    4. You actually have to change!! You must admit you have a problem and get help...you can't just pretend that you've changed and then go back to living your life the same way...in the end you WILL get caught and all your hard work will go down the drain.

    Here's the bottom line...

    People make mistakes. People have addiction problems. People can and do change.

    Getting your license is in your hands, you just have to put the work into it and accept that you have a harder battle to face than your peers without criminal records. Maybe you don't think its fair because you've changed but that's life...you pay the price for your mistakes but they don't need to define you. Here's my advice to current or future nursing students:

    1. If you have ANY DUIs/drug offenses you probably had to go to a treatment program. Make sure to get the paperwork from that facility and let them know you are planning on applying for a license. Most treatment centers have experience working with state boards and understand what paperwork is needed.

    2. Contact a treatment facility and sign up for voluntary U/As to provide objective data that you are continuously sober. Your sob story is not going to be enough, remember, we are nurses, we use objective and subjective data to make decisions.

    3. Participate in support groups and keep a record of your attendance.

    4. Get a sponsor or psychologist who can attest to your progress. Your word means nothing to the board so start gathering respected people who can vouch for your change.

    5. Go online to your board of nursing and look for the discipline records...read them...get an idea of how your board of nursing deals with people in this or similar situations. I guarantee you will find someone who's situation is similar to yours if you look hard enough. If they made a mistake during their hearing, learn from it and start building your case now.

    6. Be patient, humble, and accepting of your situation. Sometimes I feel like I'm being punished for something that someone else did because I've been in recovery and sober for over 2 years now and that lifestyle seems like a bad dream...but that's just one chapter in the story of my life, it does not define me. And I have a compassion for people with addiction issues that I know some of my cohorts don't have.

    7. Contact the board at least a year before you graduate and talk to the background compliance officer and ask "what can I do in the next year to help my case?" They will give you the right advice and it looks good for you to be proactive...remember, they are the same people who decide whether or not you need to go before the board so if they know you are transparent and willing to do what it takes, it looks good for your case. They can also give you an idea of when your case will be heard based on the board meeting schedule.

    Last but not least, don't give up. If nursing is what you want to do with your life, then don't let anything or anyone get in your way. I read alot of posts about how "you'll never get a job" and "people with addiction pasts shouldn't be nurses anyway." There are always negative people out there who will try and convince you that you're worthless or damaged because of what you did...but I'm here to tell you that there are places that will hire you (think detox nursing, mental health nursing) that will accept you as you are and in fact will respect you for having gone through the process of recovery. Accept the fact that unless you have close contacts at a local hospital, you may not be able to work there right away...work somewhere else for a few years, get through the monitoring program and then apply for those hospital jobs.

    I hope this helps anyone else out there who is going through this. When I first started this journey, all I read on these message threads was negative, negative, negative and I just want to let people know that there is hope and you can achieve your goals if you have the right tools and the determination.

    Best of luck to all!!
    mrsrose28, NurseKitten, jenealle, and 6 others like this.
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  3. 14 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    All good advice. Moving to Nursing Licensure with Criminal Hx Forum.
  5. 1
    Proof that there is life after addiction. Great post! I admire you for being so candid and honest.
    2bnitenurse4ever likes this.
  6. 0
    Great advice,

    would you suggest we come clean right up front to the nursing program when applying to find out what they will requiere down the road upon graduation? I thought I heard they run a back ground check when entering the nursing program, but I could be wrong...? I just don't want to risk getting my foot into the program and not sure if I should meet with nursing directors right away or wait ....??
  7. 1
    While I have never been in that situation, I think your post supplied extremely helpful, concrete advice. I respect you for your motivation and attitude and hard work. Congratulations! You have earned every bit of your success.
    sj20fame likes this.
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    Thank you for posting! I have 10+ years of sobriety and just recieved my denial of licensure...in the appeal process now...
  9. 1
    sj20fame-
    Your nursing school will run the same background check that the state BON will run...which means ANY kind of conviction you have whether its misdemeanor or felony needs to be disclosed. That includes sealed and expunged cases (read the fine print on the background check questionnaire).

    As for coming clean right away, I would say that being honest from the very beginning will only serve you well in the future. That is advice that I got from my favorite nursing instructor when I started getting nervous about job prospects knowing that I would have to start out with a probationary license. I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to find anything at all and she said that wasn't true, nurse managers really respect people who don't ******** them and are upfront. They want people they can rely on who they can trust and if you put yourself out there from the beginning, it shows you are willing to be transparent and truthful

    I don't know what kind of legal issues you've had in your past and I know that there are some issues that just can't be worked out with the boards, but if you're talking about DUIs or drug offenses then don't give up. Yes its an added burden on top of all the other burdens of nursing school but nothing worth having is every gained easily...I've learned that time and time again and I've proven to myself that if I really want something I will do what it takes to achieve it.
    RHIA, RN likes this.
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    @nitenurse3ever-

    From what I've read, it sounds like CA is kind of doing its own thing lately and I'm sorry to hear they are being so obtuse. If you can, I would try to apply for a license in another state...I know it sounds extreme but if you have to move, do you think you would be able to? I don't know your situation so I won't presume to know the specifics but if you think you could work somewhere else, maybe CA isn't the best place for you right now.
  11. 0
    Thank you ACP0041,

    I have to take my Pax test tomorrow, after I get results and I know that I've "passed" I'm going to meet with a school advisor on how I should approach this situation before entering the program. Thanks so much for all your help.
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    I just wanted to update my story for those who might find themselves in a similar situation. After having passed the NCLEX in June (I was the lucky one who got all 265 questions, yeay me!), I finally got my license approved in mid-October. I am on probation for 24 months and have 36 months to complete it (meaning, I have to work and be monitored for a total of 24 months within a 36 month time period). There are a few other restrictions but I have the same scope of practice that any other RN has. I have also had two job interviews since getting my license and find that my main barrier is lack of experience, not my criminal record or probationary status.

    I hope this gives those of you out there struggling with this issue some hope...I know when I first started looking into this I wondered if I should just give up because everything I read was negative. My advice is to use it to your advantage (yes, your advantage, can you imagine that?!?) and capitalize on how it has made you grow as a person and how it will positively impact your nursing care.
    Gizelle22 likes this.


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