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How will your past influence a Board of Nursing decision?

If you recently reached a turning point in your life, you may be focused on a bright future and taking steps to reach your new goals. You can be proud of yourself because not many people are able to put their pasts behind them and resolve to commit the rest of their lives to helping others. If you are working toward a career in nursing, you likely have this mindset.

Unfortunately, as much as you would like to move forward with a new career, it may not be so easy. In fact, if the Arizona State Board of Nursing has anything to say about it, you are probably going to face your past mistakes head-on.

Your criminal record and your nursing career

Make no mistake. Boards of Nursing across the country do not exist to help you get your license or to defend you if your license is in jeopardy. The mission of a BON is to establish and enforce high standards for the profession of nursing and to protect the public from nurses who may cause harm. In some states, this means denying licenses to applicants with felony convictions. Other states have stricter rules and may disqualify an applicant for repeated traffic offenses.

If you have a criminal record, you may have to:

  • Disclose your record to the Board of Nursing
  • Provide the board with court records about your case
  • Allow the board to perform a thorough investigation
  • Prepare for a detailed interview
  • Expect a criminal background check

In addition, you can petition for the court to seal the record of any arrests for which you were not convicted. You may also wish to take steps for expunging a conviction, although you will still have to inform the BON of the crime.

Denial and appeal

If the members of the board see your criminal record as evidence that you may be dishonest, behave unethically or present a danger to patients who are at their most vulnerable, the board may deny you a license. In some states, the board will not even consider extenuating circumstances, but other boards make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The circumstances surrounding your conviction may be adequate to convince a board to grant you a license to practice nursing. However, if the BON denies your application based on your criminal record, you may be able to appeal the decision. In either case, it's a good idea to speak with an employment law attorney with experience in professional license defense.

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