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The Scarlet Letter Nurse


O.k., I've looked around the forums and I see nothing -not even a hint of a topic like the one I'm posting.

I almost posted this in the forum under 'disabilities' but then I changed my mind and almost chose 'recovering'. In the end, it really didn't matter -what I'm about to post is a misfit no matter which forum I choose.

Recently, after working part-time for a doctor (and friend of 8 years) I decided to go back to work full time in nursing.

My doc could only offer the part-time I was already getting, so I launched a job hunt.

Now, I'm nearly 54, still kicking and not quite over-the-hill and (this is crazy) but I genuinely love working! I, actually, look forward to it.

I put in a months notice and, after updating my resume and a decent cover letter, I posted it online to several open nursing positions and waited.

And waited. And waited.

I was getting nothing but 'spammy' sales calls back. I checked the messages at home and on my cell.

About two weeks into my job hunt I get one authentic return call back from a moderately-sized locally-owned physician's group practice.

The human resources rep interviews me once for about 5 minutes by phone, then again a week later for another five minutes, promising that, whether I got the job or not she'd either call me or e-mail to let me know one way or the other.

Two weeks later, as I served out my notice on my present job, I had still not heard from her -nor anyone else.

Now, you -the reader- is wondering what (for heaven's sake) I did wrong!

You're a bloodhound.

Of course, I did something wrong.

Here's my mistake: more than 25 years ago I broke the law and wound up with not one -but two- misdemeanors.

Yep. Apparently, I will suffer for them the rest of my life.

So, why didn't these misdemeanors ever hurt my ability to work before?

Answer: because they happened during the prehistoric era before computers became involved with sensitive personal information at a g-zillion times the speed of light and before Human Resources personnel made hiring decisions based on how far they could go in digging up all the dusty skeletons and smelly garbage they could find from the farthest corners of your darkest closet.

You see, hospitals, and home health agencies, and medical business entities of every type are increasing their standard reach of seven years into your background to as far as your record goes back.

And they are -in their opinion- doing it for the safety of everyone (in the end, themselves).

Meanwhile, people like me, who have something embarrassing in their background that they dealt with and put behind them so many years ago are seeing it dredged up again in these extensive background checks.

For me, it's very alarming because I know, matter of factly, that our small town has never been able to keep anyone's secrets for long, despite HIPPA law.

In the last 25 years I've married, raised a family I'm proud of and worked so hard at creating a decent and honorable life.

Now, I can't get work, and my ancient mistakes are back again to haunt me and harm me.

My life is falling apart because of this. I just wonder how many others are scarred by backgrounds that aren't perfect.

Speak to an attorney. We can not give legal advice per TOS, however, as just a personal thought process an attorney may be able to assist you with this.

And apply in other towns close to yours, but not in your town.

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics. Has 11 years experience.

HIPAA only applies to protected medical/health information and only so far back. Criminal charges (felony or misdemeanor) are public record for infinity unless expunged or sealed.


Specializes in Lvn to RN, new grad med/surg. Has 7 years experience.

Look into getting your record expunged. Any rehabilitation efforts in addition to the time that has passed would help also. Usually the biggest hurdle is the state board seems like if they granted your license I don't know why an individual employer wouldn't look past your record, unless it's a state or federal job. They won't hire anyone with a record...period.

Meriwhen, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

As Beachy pointed out, HIPAA will do nothing for you here. HIPAA only deals with medical care, not criminal history.

Unfortunately, there's no blanket law stating that employers can evaluate only the last 7 or so years of your life. There's state laws that may regulate how they can use your criminal record in the hiring process (State Laws on Use of Arrests and Convictions in Employment | Nolo.com) and provide some protection, but for the most part, employers can look back into your history as far as they like...and make judgements based on that.

Fair? Not really. But it is what it is. And given the glut of nurses looking for work right now, employers can be exceptionally picky about who they want to hire. So many would rather go with the nurse with a clean record than for anyone with even the smallest blemish. Mind you, there's no guarantee that Clean Record Nurse is a saint who will be perfect and never given them one moment's grief...


Talk to a lawyer to see what options may be available to you, such as expungement. This will at least let you answer "no" to most (but not all) questions regarding your criminal past.

Also--and I ask only because it's not clear from your post--if you haven't addressed this with your BON already, definitely talk to a laywer before you bring it up with them. BONs do not look kindly upon those who fail to disclose their criminal history, especially when they find it out on their own.

Best of luck.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

How do you know it is your criminal record preventing you from getting hired? Have employers actually told you that? Or are you just guessing that is the problem because you can't think of any other reason?

Given that you have been out of the job market for 8 years, you might be missing some other reason why you are not getting hired. It is unlikely that those places that ever called you after you applied looked up your criminal history. Most employers don't check your history until after they have interviewed you and determined that you are a "finalist" for the position. So, your record is unlikely to be the cause of them not interviewing you.

This is devastating, yes, but I have seen ways around it. You have 2 misdemeanors and you are already a licensed nurse with experience. Have you tried looking for positions that in the application only ask if you were convicted of a felony? I am currently in FL and I would say that like 1/2 of the hospitals will not even ask if you have been convicted of misdemeanors. I too would depend of what you were convicted of. If it was any type of abuse or anything involving children that would pretty bad for you.


Specializes in geriatrics, psych. Has 20+ years experience.

In the area that I live there's criminal background checks on every job, even at a grocery store or the local dollar store. Those background checks show every charge and often if a misdemeanor shows up it's still enough to put a halt on the hiring process. My husband has looked now for years for a good job but charges from many years ago still haunt him. He is currently in school to become a drug and alcohol abuse counselor but, even when he gets out with good grades and an excellent school record, will he get a job or will this still haunt him? I'm hoping that his career choice makes a difference since it's related to his charges. He wants to help others who have been through what he has. I still worry that student loans will be due and no job to pay for them. I just hope his networking helps because it's not thus far. Thank God for farming work in our area and thank God he has experience in a trade of his own. With all of this said, nursing (or healthcare in general) is a far less forgiving profession. In a situation like yours OP then I guess seeking a lawyer to have these expunged, just as the others have said, is probably your best option. There's almost no such thing as a second chance in the world today with all if the computers that find almost everything. Pretty soon it will show up if you hit another kid in kindergarten and you will have to explain that at a job interview, if you even get the interview because of that. Lol! Nothing is hidden anymore. Everyone's skeletons are out of the closet now and no second chances for someone who done something silly when they were young. It's been taken to extremes because even the law looks at time. For example: the officers, lawyers, and judges no longer sees my husband as someone who breaks the law because it's been so many years since he has been into trouble and got those misdemeanors. These people talk with him at social functions and he is now respected as law abiding and as a friend to a lot of these people. Time should be a factor but unfortunately it's not. I'm sure there's many people in this very same position. 😞

Sent from my iPhone using allnurses. Angi/LPN (🔜RN)

MrChicagoRN, RN

Specializes in Leadership, Psych, HomeCare, Amb. Care. Has 30 years experience.

How do you know it is your criminal record preventing you from getting hired? Have employers actually told you that? Or are you just guessing that is the problem because you can't think of any other reason?


That's what I was thinking too. Most applications only ask about felonies, not misdemeanors. Many people make mistakes in their younger years, or sometimes get caught up and charged for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. If I was hiring, I wouldn't even know you had been arrested in the past if there was no ding on your license.

Its a competitive job market out there. Sometimes it takes a long time to find something, especially in a smaller market.

I think the only mistake you made was quitting job A, before finding job B. Any chance you can go back to your old job for awhile? Temp staffing agency?

P.S. As to the OP's HIPAA reference, I think she was just pointing that out as an example about how poorly secrets are kept, and how easily word gets around.


Specializes in TELE, CVU, ICU. Has 10+ years experience.

I looked at your profile to determine where you might be. As stated by another poster some states have more employee protections than others.

I know from my own experience that a misdemeanor conviction has not precluded employment, but it has possibly made it more difficult. There is no way to know for sure because I've never been explicity informed that it was an issue. Some applications ask about any conviction, some only ask for felonies. I have not even received calls back from the places that ask about all criminal history. I am happy to say I've been offered two jobs recently.

I have a solid work history, have been continously employed since graduation, and have also continuously strived to improve my marketability by going to school and gaining critical care experience. I never leave one job before another is in the bag. I always trade up. I also apply for positions and interview regularly (even if I won't get the job).

That is the only real advice I have. I am concerned that you may be facing age discrimination, or some other issue is hindering your prospects. My background check is clean (I always request the results) and my conviction was ten years ago.

Probably you are not receiving calls because of the positions you are applying for. If you are trying to get into a specialize area then you need classes to prove you are keeping up with the times. If you need to take an IV course or pediatric course to work in a family practice then do it. Is your CPR card up to date? How about an ACLS? Pushing contrast into an IV that you started in a radiology clinic is a good job. But you must be qualified. If you are trying to get a job in a SNF than take the certificate for Stroke, or CHF classes. Respiratory classes to learn how to put a C-pap machine or a venti mask. If you are applying to hospitals than you will not hear from them as one needs to be in an acute setting one year in the last three years to get this position. You have been in a doctors office for 8 years part time. Another thing is because you have only worked parttime some facilities are not going to hire you as you are not a proven 40 a week employee. Go to a travel agency or staffing agency, you will get hired for home health or SNF or a traveling job for 1 year then you will have proven yourself a good 40 hour a week employee.

Desert Lady

Just going to ask the obvious. Why did you quit your oer job before landing a new one? Future employers are now going to want to know why the gap in employment. Good luck onyour job hunt!

I agree with what most of the other posters are saying. It probably has little to nothing to do with past transgressions and everything to do with the job market. I've been out of work for more than a year, and, after finally getting interviews, people very enthusiastically tell me they will "DEFINITELY get back to me one way or the other" or "Within a few days" and I never hear a word from them, not even a rejection letter. Or, after weeks I finally get the "You have such wonderful experience and a great background but we couldn't be less interested in you" letter. And I have NO "criminal" background to speak of. Not that I think you're paranoid, but I think that any HR person worth their salt, if they saw convictions for misdemeanors from 25 years ago and nothing since on a background check, would consider you a good risk. Especially since you (presumably) hold an unrestricted nursing license in good standing.

My personal feeling is that I keep my business my business, especially from an employer, since I don't like to buy trouble. I thing you could do (but I wouldn't recommend) is disclose to en employer your youthful discretion and they would know in advance. I think that is overkill, since, again, as many have stated, most employers are looking for felony and abuse convictions. It is a tight market, especially for nurses, even with lots of experience. Hang in there! Have you looked into traveling? That might be a good option. Get out of your small town and see the country. Please don't let some bad decisions a half a lifetime ago keep you from loving your job and growing in it!!

In 1989 I was the side-target of a political fight between two would-be sheriffs running for office in a small, hillbilly East Tennessee town.

They were doing what came natural to each of them: stir up a frenzied crowd (the local religious crowd) and use that frenzy to highlight your ferocity and demonstrate how good of a sheriff you'd be.

My sister owned a certain biz in a well-know redlight area of the county and they tagged me to get to her.

I was already a nurse working a regular job. I still had contact with my sister and they figured out how to nab her for the 'good of all the people'....all they had to do was apply the right pressure and that was me.

Both would-be sheriffs were playing the 'bannish-the-harlots-from-our-God-loving-county' card to get votes.

One of them crossed the line and entrapped several innocent people in order to get to a handful of the what they had deemed the 'worst' redlight biz owners.

Many of the people entrapped did not see it coming and walked right into the police station to straighten out the charges that (we thought) would be easy to erase, once we proved out whereabouts at the time of the allegged misdemeanor.

What happened was -sleek investigators had everyone sign papers that (they promised) would smooth everything out -except that's not what happened. I don't think anyone actaully read those papers and I know that no one even asked for a lawyer b/c they didn't even refer to the whole incident as an actual 'arrest', as a matter of fact, they told everyone that going through this was just being done because it was mere 'procedure' and wouldn't amount to anything.

All they said they wanted was everyone to admit to their relationship with the business owners.

Everyone that came in was embarrassed about being there linked with our relatives that owned the businesses, anyway, so none of us wanted it to go public. We did what they said.

Days later, everyone was served with papers to appear at a court hearing.

The newspapers and TV reporters were there and it was blasted all through the county, ramping up the politcal race for sheriff.

After the race, the new sheriff paid back his biggest campaign promise to the church goers by continuing to focus on the redlight area of the county and transformed his success using that item into a tool to help the local new candidate for Prosecuter to win his campaign, too!

The two of them used the exact same method -and people- as before to put the squeeze on the redlight business owners.

It was easier this time: they had an earlier misdemeanor.

They were successful.

But they completely destroyed many *innocent* people's lives in doing so.

And I'm one of those people.

Angi, having this in my background puts me at risk in all kinds of situations. That's what is so ridiculous about all of this: the misdemeanors, actually, set me up to be harassed or hurt, and there's always someone willing to try extortion as a means to exploit your past.

We all have to work (at least I do) -and the small fishbowl of a town that I live in is known for notorious gossip and pious religious sects that condemn the past of anyone with even a hint of soil.

I recently applied for work in a nearby town and after a week of checking they came back and said 'Come in & let's get the paperwork started."

I go in and every single question and comment was focused on one thing: criminal history.

At first, I told myself I was just imagining it and that I was just over-sensitive on the subject -but, I swear, the female interviewer stared a flaming hole through me and banged the drum over and over and harped every other breath about how criminal history background checks were *vital* to the applicant process.

She made me feel guilty about something that -God knows- I was never guilty of in the first place, years ago!

But it just goes to show you that these interviewers are more than ready to pass judgement on whomever they deem 'less than' equal to their *personal*, *moral* standards, if not the requirement standards of the hiring corporation.

My employer requested a months notice at first. Then he reduced it to two weeks. It was only two days a week, anyway, but at least, it was a job.

I needed full time work. They couldn't offer more work. I had to turn in a notice in order to keep from just abruptly having to leave , if new employment was gained.

What I didn't realize was that the market for LPN's had decreased to an all-time low, affected by several factors: #1-the overall downturn in the nation's economy. #2- healthcare facilities (hosp) were hiring mainly from *within*, decreasing the availability of Nursing Jobs at the local hospitals, #3- closure of three to four local home health agencies that employed at least 60% of the locally available LPN's in our area of East Tennessee.

I was told by someone there is work for nurses in the Clarksville area. Go on a job hunting trip. If you land something, relocate. Good luck.