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Arrested After Accepted to Nursing School

Nurse Beth   (708 Views 1 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

I have tried to find similar cases of nurses/students struggling with the stress of having a misdemeanor class C/arrest (for minor in consumption), but everyone's case is unique as is mine. The incident happened after being accepted into nursing school, just about 2 months before starting the program.

On my orientation day, the program director said anyone with any legal problems would have to disclose that to BON before registering for NCLEX and recommended to do so ASAP because it can be a lengthy process. I disclosed that even without having my court date yet. I basically got the approval from BON. My charge was dismissed after I plead no contest.

Now I have started the process of expungement. I have a year left of the program and with the summer break I am looking to apply to PCT/nurse assistant jobs to build up my resume. I ran into the issue of being asked on applications of any arrest/charge history. Since the charge isn't expunged yet, I would obviously have to state yes. I am getting nervous thinking about this as I will more than likely be applying to these same hospitals once I am a graduated nurse. I am scared of there any issues of me stating yes to arrest/charge history now and later stating no. Do you know what would be the best approach to these applications now for PCT? Will this be an issue in the future?

Dear Stressed,

This is stressful and it's important to understand the difference between state BON requirements and employment requirements.

NCLEX Background Checks

Typically when you apply to take the NCLEX, the application includes questions regarding prior arrests. Depending on your state, the application will specifically define what you must report and what you don't need to report. For example, some states do not require you to report minor traffic violations. They do require you to report expunged records.

The state BONs conduct an FBI level background search (deeper than any employer) and can easily discover all records, expunged or not. The point is, when that time comes, be truthful.

You say that you"basically got approval" from the BON but I will tell you it is not official approval to sit for your NCLEX. They do not issue approval to take the NCLEX until you are eligible- meaning classes and clinical rotations are successfully completed. The reason is that they do not spend resources on students who are not yet eligible to take the exam, and they do not issue blanket approval ahead of time. They most likely gave you a general "thumbs up" based on your situation and the nature of the offense.

It's important to know that the BON is not your friend. They are there to protect the safety of the public. At the same time, nurses with far more serious charges than minor in consumption have been approved by the BON.

Once they receive an NCLEX application, cases are resolved on an individual, case-by-case basis. At time of application, they may ask you to write a letter of explanation. This letter is very important. They are looking to see if you are remorseful for the event, and if you have rehabilitated.

Keep all correspondence from the BON, and reply to anything they send you immediately.

Employer Background Checks

Employers are a different story because they do not conduct the level of background checks that state BONs do. Again, answer truthfully, as employment applications ask different questions. Some may ask you to report arrests, some convictions, some felonies, some all of the above. 

It's important to answer truthfully because falsification of an application is grounds for termination, whenever it is discovered,


If your arrest falls under the purview of state's expungement laws, and it is successfully expunged, then you are entitled to answer "No" when asked on an employment application if you have ever been arrested or convicted.

So expungement is a good option for people who have records when applying for employment.

In your case, until your expungement is complete, you must answer the employment application questions as asked. You really can't go wrong by being truthful, and you would not be the first in your situation. 

Your explanation in answering "No" as an RN applicant when you answered "Yes" previously to the same question is that "The arrest was expunged". HR understands expungement laws.

So focus on the here and now. Do well in school, and when looking ahead, visualize yourself passing the NCLEX and working at the hospital of your choice. 

All of this was not to frighten you, but to educate you. Fortunately, your brush with the law was minor, but as an RN, your personal life and choices can affect your licensure. 

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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