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!!