I wanted to share my story with trying to get my Registered Nurse license with the hope that it may help someone else in a similar situation, and because I need to vent.
For background: I plead guilty to distributing marijuana in 2004, almost 15 years ago now. I was 20. It was a felony. I didn't have the resources to hire a decent attorney, nor did I have the courage to fight. I also have a concealed deadly weapon charge on my record from 2001. This was for a machete that was in the trunk of my car with my other camping gear (tent, camp stove, sleeping bag, hatchet). I was very young, and poor, and just did not fight for myself in court.
I won't go into it much, but I didn't have an ordinary youth. There was boy's village, homeless shelters, rehabs, drug use, violence, etc. Life was hard and got worse until I decided to get clean and live a new life at 29 years old.
Once clean, I realized I wanted to do something useful with my life. I also found I was good at school, and had a passion for healthcare. I knew entering the nursing program that my criminal record would probably be a problem. But, I moved forward with faith, confident that I was on the right path.
To keep things concise, I graduated my nursing program with Honors in January 2018, was voted by my fellow students to give our graduation speech, and was offered a job as soon as I walked out of the building after giving that speech. I passed the NCLEX on February 28. However, as I watched my fellow students start at their new jobs, I watched as my license was reported as "Pending" on the Maryland Board of Nursing look up site.
No one prepared me for this part. Of course there is no course in nursing school on how to deal with the Board in regards to a criminal past. My instructors had little experience with my situation. I emailed and called the board to try and find out what, if anything, they needed me to do. I provided all the court documents I could get. The Director of Background reviews would barely communicate with me. That is understandable, because they are surely very busy. What she did tell me were short, one word or one sentence responses like "that should be fine".
Meanwhile the hospital that hired me keeps pushing my start date back, and tell me they are sorry I am going through what I am. They had questions about my background also, but a long and honest letter from me explaining my past was sufficient. It feels great to know they are willing to take a chance on me. Unfortunately, I will probably soon lose that opportunity due to how long it is taking the board to make a decision.
After weeks, I finally got a response from the Board stating, "oh I'm sorry I meant to tell you a while ago, the review committee will not even look at your case, because they don't have the police reports". One of the first things I told the Board was that the courts told me they don't keep police reports for closed cases as old as mine. I was able to pay the sheriffs department for copies of them though. When I asked the Board if this was all they needed, I got the response "Sorry, may have more info in a few weeks."
I wish I knew I needed to track down all my police reports for every case I was ever involved with. This info is not shared on any online resource, and was not shared with me at the beginning of my communications with the Board. If you have a similar situation to mine, I suggest you start collecting everything you possibly can related to your cases. Court documents, police reports, parole probation statements, rehabilitation certificates.
I also suggest you hire an attorney that specializes in this field.
I thought the long length of time that had passed since my charges would help. I thought the board would take that into consideration. That length of time, however, has become a hindrance, since those records are hard to obtain now.
Good luck to you. It is hard to stay positive, but I believe that if I stay the course, I will find that this is all going to be worth it.
I wanted to update this with some good news. Maryland granted my license. It is unencumbered, but it is single state only, which means that because of my felony I will not get compact state privileges. Normally I wouldn't care, but I am supposed to start my first nursing job in Virginia in three days, but I will have to lose that opportunity. Still, despite that, this is a time for celebration. I will find another job.
It is hard to change. Most people do not. It is hard, especially in U.S. society to turn your life around once you have been branded "Felon". but for sure, anything is possible.
I am so happy for you! Keep updating us, your story could be what keeps another nurse from losing hope.