Because of our expertise and the sheer amount of material available on our website and blog, our office often hears from prospective registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses, sometimes even before they apply to nursing school. For young people considering a career in nursing, it’s never been more important to stay out of trouble before applying to nursing school. Even minor misdemeanor crimes—such as simple battery, driving under the influence, or petty theft—can result in obstacles that can seriously affect the first few years of a young nurse’s career.
Young applicants don’t realize how much power licensing agencies have to look at the facts of what happened in a particular criminal case, rather than just the penal code section violated or the terms of a particular sentence. Let’s say a young woman is arrested for domestic violence after someone witnesses her push her boyfriend during a heated argument. If the police are called to the scene, they are very often compelled to make an arrest, and so the young woman may end up in court facing charges of assault and domestic battery. After a frank discussion about the case with the district attorney, let’s assume our young woman accepts a plea to disturbing the peace. This represents a very good outcome in criminal court—the crime itself doesn’t reference "battery" or "domestic violence" at all.
However, when our young woman finishes nursing school and applies for a license, she will have to disclose the conviction to the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). The BRN will ask for copies of the paperwork from criminal court, but they will also evaluate the police reports from the night of the incident. These police reports might contain embarrassing details our young woman would be embarrassed to admit—might she have cursed at her boyfriend that evening? Was she drinking that night? Was she disagreeable with the police when they showed up? The BRN can consider all of these details when they evaluate a license application. Suddenly, the potential nurse is having to answer questions about whether or not she was abusive, or has a problem with alcohol, or demonstrates bad judgment—all stemming from a single misdemeanor conviction.
If you’re a license applicant with a criminal conviction, and those answers are potentially embarrassing, you need an experienced license defense attorney to represent you against the Board. Denials for single criminal convictions are becoming commonplace, but a denial doesn’t represent the end of a potential nursing career. The challenge is to show that you are rehabilitated, which means more than just doing all your classes and paying all your fines. You need to be prepared to explain to the Board enforcement why the incident happened and why it won’t happen again. You need documentary evidence that supports the kind of person you are, and you need to be prepared to distinguish the person who committed the crime from the person applying for a license. BRN settles a majority of single-conviction cases for a probationary license, which can dramatically restrict the opportunities available to a young nurse. If you want to avoid probation or if you are worried about getting an RN license, contact an experienced license defense attorney for advice.