Can I become a Nurse with a criminal record?

Nurses Criminal

Updated:   Published

I am wondering if someone can give me advise. When I was a teenager I went down the wrong path. I had issues with depression and opiate addiction. I ended up being charged with theft. However I never ended up going to court. I moved away and forgot all about it. Then I grew up. I got help for my addiction and mental health issues. It was a long recovery. I saw doctors and councillors every week and it took years. Then it took years after I beat the addiction to find myself again. It's now been 11 years and I've gone back to school. I started in the Human Biology Program at the University of Toronto and am currently in my second year, but then decided to switch to nursing. I was planning to apply to the Nursing Program for next Sept and it will be a two year accelerated program at my University. However, before that can happen I need to go back and deal with my charge. I'm worried this will make it impossible for me to get a placement and a job after I graduate. I am planning to get a lawyer but don't know what to expect. Can anyone offer any advise? Is becoming a nurse even possible for me? If I get a good lawyer could I possibly get the charges dropped? If I do get charged, what if I apply for a pardon afterwards? 

Specializes in EMT since 92, Paramedic since 97, RN and PHRN 2021.

  This is something you really need to talk to an attorney that practices law regarding nursing licensing.  I commend you fort getting your life straightened out but running from problems doesnt make them ever go away.

Alex R.

6 Posts

I understand. Will do. Thanks for the advise. Either way I have to go back to deal with it whether it will impact my career or not. 

Alex R.

6 Posts

I understand how stupid it was trust me. I really do. All I want to do now is whatever I need to do to deal with my past mistake. I need to know the right steps to take so that I  will be able to make the best of this situation and hopefully continue my schooling afterwards. I know it's only one shoplifting charge and it's 11 years old but I'm worried that there going to hold it against me for the rest of my life. I'm worried that after I graduate I won't ever be able to get my license and no hospital will ever hire me. I know I could be eligible for a pardon after dealing with the charge but is that something I should do? If I get a pardon will that make a difference? Or should I be focusing on getting a lawyer? And how do I even go about choosing which lawyer to hire? Should I just hire a really expensive one or a really popular one? You mentioned a lawyer that specializes in nursing cases?

Editorial Team / Admin

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,637 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development.

The American Association of Nurse Attorneys is a great place to start. These lawyers either are nurses as well or are very familiar with nursing licensure. 

Alex R.

6 Posts

Thank you! I will look into it. I appreciate the advise! 


13 Posts

There is a high probability of getting charges dropped given that it has been so long,  you were a teen, and your rehabilitation record. DA's normally want people to rehabilitate, and a good lawyer should be able to make a good case for you.  Hopefully you have documentation of all the things you have accomplished and letters of recommendation/employment/schooling. The fact that you didn't committ another crime since looks pretty good too since part of the DAs job is keeping the public safe they take into account how likely the people are to reoffend if they get let off the hook. Staying out of trouble for 11yrs looks pretty good. If they do charge you, there is always a chance you can still get accepted into nursing school. You would have to explain the situation, be upfront , show documentation, same goes with the BON when you get your license. Yes ofcourse there is also the chance of getting the charge expunged. In that case your school will not be able to see your charge but the BON will. The BON does license people with criminal records, it is just a process of again showing proof that you are not a danger. They take it on a case by case basis and there is current no crime that automatically bars you from licensure. There are so many directions this can go. Do not give up on your dream, there is so much hope for you. We need more people in our field who understand addiction and recovery. Addicts in recovery are some of the most humble,non-judgemental, and compassionate  people I've ever met. Good luck!

Alex R.

6 Posts

Thank you for the encouragement. I appreciate it and what you said really means a lot to me!

Lele, ASN

5 Posts

I'm sorry to hear about your long past but glad to hear you've decided to pursue the field of nursing. I can tell you my experience. I was very young and accepted at a university for nursing. I got a dui a few months before I was set to start. When I applied, one of the stipulations was that if you get arrested for anything, you must notify the department. My offer was immediately rescinded. I began reaching out to every university and community college in my state and was told the same thing. They all advised me it was too fresh and to wait a while. Fast forward 10 years and I reapplied and was accepted. If you have proven yourself and stayed out of trouble, they may look past it. Mine was a misdemeanor and I didn't have any prior criminal history. You may want to reach out to admission departments to start your search. Also, check into getting your record expunged. I represented myself in court 2 years ago and had my dui expunged, so now I don't even have to disclose it. Do your research and don't give up. There is a shortage in the field, so it's worth a shot. Understand that depending on which department your in, you will likely have direct access to narcotics. I have worked with nurses who had an opiate charge and they cannot work anywhere with controlled substances out of choice/due to state board requirements. Diversion is real and no joke. 

Career Columnist / Author

Nurse Beth, MSN

146 Articles; 3,419 Posts

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Hi, I wanted to encourage you :). You demonstrate the remorse and personal growth that licensing boards seek.

Just please always answer licensing board questions truthfully, whether charges are expunged or not. Expunged charges typically are not discovered by employers or nursing schools but are discoverable by licensing boards as they conduct FBI-level investigations.

Best wishes, future nurse!

Alex R.

6 Posts

Thanks guys! I appreciate the advice and encouragement! I definitely won't give up. I'm currently looking into hiring a lawyer and am planning on applying for a pardon. But either way I plan on t being completely honest about all of this when I apply.  If I am not accepted I will just keep trying. 
That's my plan for right now anyways. 

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