Complicated background, should I go to nursing school?

  1. Hello, I have searched many threads in this topic but have not yet found one identifical to what I am needing to ask. I am 1 year away from finishing an Associate's in Health Sciences and have been planning on transferring to a 4 year BSN program. I know that licensure in my state, Missouri, requires a fingerprint background check. I know that the BON examines each applicant case by case, and those with arrest histories may be subject to denial for licensure. I am planning on calling the BON in Missouri to find out more information on the possibility of being denied a license. However, before I apply for nursing school I would like to become aware of how significant the chances are that I will be denied a license based on my background. I can't imagine anything worse than attending school for 2 years only to find out it was a complete waste.

    About a year ago, the cops were called to my house by my mother who presented to them heroin she had found on me 2 months prior. After searching my room, they found needles and arrested me. I was arrested, fingerprinted, and spent one night in jail. I was released after being issued a "pending further investigation." No subsequent action has been taken since then. Shortly after, I had an overdose. The cops were called and I received a ticket for drug paraphernalia. I was not arrested; I went to the hospital. I'm not sure if I was charged with a misdemeanor or just issued a citation. I did, however, have to attend a few court hearings where I presented documentation of substance abuse treatment. They gave me 2 years of unsupervised probation, however I'm not sure if I am technically on probation or diversion. I have passed a routine background check for my employer, a hospital, where I work in an office setting. I plan to continue working in the health care field until I complete nursing school. I am hoping experience in the health care field will be indicative to the BON as successful rehabilitation.

    Can anyone give me any information on the likelihood of me receiving a license after graduation, given I present documentation of rehabilitative efforts? At the time of the NCLEX it will have been approximately 5 years since these incidents. I know that these situations vary case by case. But if anyone has any input past "the BON determines circumstances case by case" it would be very helpful. Thanks!
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    Joined: Jul '18; Posts: 1; Likes: 1


  3. by   Sour Lemon
    Ugh ...that's not a situation I would want to be in. A one-time pot offense twenty years ago is one thing, but you're dealing with recent, multiple, hard drug offenses. Just from what I've seen/read, it seems very likely that you'd be monitored if not refused outright. I don't think I'd expend the effort with nursing school under those circumstances. You may even have some difficulty with your background check for school.
    What is your reason for wanting to be s nurse in the first place? It might be a less "safe" area of work for you considering your past tendencies.
    I do wish you well.
  4. by   newnurse Fresno
    I think if you can prove rehabilitation. You have a fair chance. I had some ugly stuff on my background too and I got my license, against all odds, in Cali. First thing I would do...find out exactly what your convictions are. Most likely you only have to disclose convictions, not arrests. Then collect as much evidence of your rehabilitation as possible. Go to meeting and get signatures. Get letters from instructors. Every nursing board is different and I'm only familiar with Cali but in my opinion I think you have a chance. And most of all be honest. I wrote a 3 page letter and held nothing back. But also told them how I have changed and how much I regret my past mistakes. Good luck to you!
  5. by   Persephone Paige
    You will probably hear many different opinions, but mine is as follows:
    Working for/getting a job at a hospital is not proof of continuous sobriety. Lots of active addicts successfully hide their addictions while holding down employment in a healthcare setting. My BON required 2 years of continuous 'documented' sobriety before considering reinstating my license. What did that entail?
    1. Getting a signature by the chairperson for every AA/NA meeting I attended.
    2. Proof of regular random urine drug screens with negative results.
    3. Proof of any treatment I had sought.

    Not being in a monitoring program, nor on probation, I couldn't provide that. I was still referred to a monitoring program for 5 years. It's all about documentation. So many claim they are sober, but without proof on paper, I haven't seen the BON take their word for it. Those would be things to present to the board that prove you are sober.

    Best wishes
  6. by   ProperlySeasoned
    Here is a question that only you can answer. Let's say you can accepted into a program, their clinicals, get your license, and job (all big ifs). Do you really want to be surrounded by powerful, high quality narcotics? You had an overdose after you were arrested. To me, that shows a powerful addition. It's great you are no longer using, but sounds like it has been a fairly short peroid. Let's say you had a friend who was a severe alcoholic, and had been sober for a year. Would you recommend he go to school and become a bartender?
  7. by   CharlieFoxtrot
    I know that nursing school and being a nurse is an admirable career choice. However, I do second the previous posters concerns about being around narcotics in the hospital. Nursing is stressful, and without an adequate relapse prevention plan in place and good peer support, it can be a challenge to remain on the path to recovery.

    That is not to say that a career taking care of others is out the window. Have you given any thought to looking into recovery services and peer recovery?

    Missouri offers credentialing for those in recovery to assist others in their own recovery for both mental health and substance abuse. With a peer credential, you can work in psych departments at hospitals, CMHC's, and other recovery facilities. The training is five days, is free, and certification costs $75 initially, and $70 to renew each year. Furthermore, Missouri also is one of the few states that has a career ladder that allows those with little post-secondary education to work their way up the career ladder to do recovery counseling. Check out the Missouri Credentialing Board (just google search it) and take a peek at "Career Ladder." There are several programs that offer associates and four-year degrees in addictions counseling (KCKCC in KC, KS and Washburn University, KS) which are recognized in Missouri.

    Coming off of an opioid addiction is difficult, and your lived experience may be helpful if it is applied in the right place. Best of luck to you!
  8. by   not.done.yet
    I think there are a lot of other ways to make a living that will not put you right at the door of temptation on a regular basis, nor submit you to the expense and humiliation of being in a recovery program right from the get-go, provided you are even allowed to sit for licensure to begin with. Nursing school is an uphill battle in the best of circumstances. If faced with the potential negatives that will linger through all of school for a situation like yours, such as an inability to sit for licensure, requirement to be in a very expensive recovery program, a restricted license if granted at all and then trouble finding an employer willing to take you on with both your past history of abuse along with your potential/probable restrictions along with the fact that you are a new grad with no experience.....I think I would investigate doing something less uncertain and risky.
    Last edit by not.done.yet on Jul 10
  9. by   BostonFNP
    Go here:

    Look at the questions you will need to answer for the BON; this is a big investment you are considering, don't risk wasting it.
  10. by   NurseBlaq
    I'm confused, you said a year ago mom found drugs and paraphernalia, followed by 2 yrs of probation, and you're now on probation diversion, yet this was 5 years ago? I'm lost.

    Nevertheless, not to sound hateful but nursing isn't the best choice of career right now. Not saying that it will never be, but the continued access to narcotics would be a bad career and sobriety move for you. Not to take away from the fact you're trying to get your life in order and have recently graduated. That's all to be commended and I do, however you should hold off on nursing.

    If I may ask, why do you want to be a nurse?
  11. by   newnurse Fresno
    People do recover!! and people that do recover have usually reached a point in their life where they would not go back to the madness for nothing. I can honestly say there isn't any thing in the hospital that can tempt me to go back to drugs. I have been drug free for 15 years. I think you guys are misjudging the OP. For people that have overcome addiction, this achievement means so much more to us. we are not willing to throw that all away, by stealing narcotics. Not only did we have to work just as hard, but we had our past in the way as a huge obstacle. You guys also have to realize that substance abuse is all the same, whether or not it is drugs or alcohol. many nurses are working with two duis, so her 2 drug offenses are really no different . and for the record I do know a recovering alcoholic that is a bartender, who is also putting herself through school. she hasn't had a drink in over 2 years. She just sits back and laughs at realizes she never wants to go back . I can be done. So in my opinion I think if this is something that she really wants and she can prove that she is rehabilitated, I say go for it.
  12. by   newnurse Fresno
    I have scoured the Missouri board of nursing site and the MACHS site trying to figure out if you have to disclose only convictions, but its not very clear, so i would try to call. here in cali you dont have to disclose arrests.
  13. by   newnurse Fresno
    Ok , so I finally found this . looks like you only have to disclose convictions. It looks like one of your arrests might not have resulted in a conviction, I would definitely find out.

    Question:** What crimes or license discipline must be reported on the application?
    Answer: All convictions, guilty pleas and no contest pleas must be reported, except for
    minor traffic violations not related to the use of drugs or alcohol. This includes misdemeanors,
    felonies, driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI).**Crimes must be
    reported even if they result in a suspended imposition of sentence.**All prior or current
    disciplinary action against another professional license must be reported, whether it occurred
    in Missouri or in another state or territory.
  14. by   CharlieFoxtrot
    Quote from newnurse Fresno
    People do recover!! <snip> I think you guys are misjudging the OP. For people that have overcome addiction, this achievement means so much more to us. we are not willing to throw that all away, by stealing narcotics. Not only did we have to work just as hard, but we had our past in the way as a huge obstacle.
    As someone who has worked in mental health, I definitely agree that recovery is possible in the MH/SA fields. A career in nursing is also possible, too, for many people who have had MH/SA issues, and their lived experience can be an asset.

    That being said, a career RIGHT NOW may not be ideal. Being sufficiently grounded in one's recovery and having lived experience in recovery is important as there is a huge difference between having a couple month's recovery and years of recovery. One develops a more extensive set of recovery tools, develops healthy coping mechanisms, and is more likely to turn to positive supports than self-destructive habits.

    Thus, my suggestion to go into peer work as a temporary alternative. It keeps OP in the health care field, but in a different capacity that is more supportive of recovery. If nurses swear by the watch-do-teach method of learning, so, too, can those in recovery: watching others live a fulfilling life in recovery, living that life, and teaching others how to do so can be helpful in furthering one's own recovery journey.

    The peer worker at our CMHC was able to go to school while doing peer work, and their lived experience proved invaluable in their human services classes, and despite having issues with SA in the past, they were able to go on to become a very effective SA counselor, and, after a lot of study, a psych nurse working in a methadone treatment clinic. It was a long road for this individual, but it was possible.