Student Fears Charge May Keep Her From an RN License

A nursing student claimed she was being accused of “computer trespassing” and petty larceny at the clinic where she worked.

She said she was innocent of these accusations and that the real culprit was a co-worker who had stolen her ID card and subsequently left the state. After being informed that she could face misdemeanor charges, she became concerned that a conviction would keep her from qualifying for an RN license.

This situation raised these questions:

  • Was she working at the clinic as a student nurse or on her own time?
  • What ID card did the accused offender take, and how does she know the offender left the state?
  • Does she know the offender’s name?
  • Did she contest the charges with the clinic through its disciplinary and grievance policy, and if she was working there as a student, did she follow her school’s policy to contest the allegations as well?

Nurse Practice Acts and Convictions

State nurse practice acts and their respective rules define how boards of nursing determine if an individual is eligible to obtain an RN license.

The requirements consist of educational and other mandates, an application for a nursing license, and successfully passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam once cleared for eligibility to sit for the exam.

One mandate reviewed by a board of nursing for applicants is whether a felony or misdemeanor conviction exists. The application for licensure requires an honest answer to whether or not a conviction has occurred. Some states also require Criminal Background Checks for applicants.

Moreover, some nurse practice acts state that the misdemeanor or felony need not be related to the practice of nursing, while others specifically declare that such a connection exists.

Depending on the state, there could be additional requirements for applicants, including whether the conviction was expunged (removing the conviction from a person’s criminal history through a legal process) or whether the criminal court record has been sealed.

Certain states clearly prohibit issuing healthcare licenses when offenses involve sex crimes, misdemeanors involving violence, or fraud.

These requirements do not absolutely prohibit an applicant with a conviction from obtaining an RN license. Rather, each applicant with a conviction is handled by the applicable state board of nursing on a case-by-case basis.

How Might This Applicant Fare?

Because so many issues remain unanswered in this situation, my response can be based only on assumptions.

If the student was working on her own, hopefully she grieved the allegations that her employer reported to the police, which resulted in the criminal charges against her.

Grieving work allegations is essential in supporting that the claims are untrue. Even if the grievance isn’t successful, utilizing the employer’s grievance policy to challenge the charges arguably supports their untruth. In contrast, not grieving the assertions arguably supports their truth.

The student did not say she had been terminated from the nursing education program, so I can assume she is still a student and the nursing program is supporting her at this time (since there is no conviction to date). If this assumption is true, it is hoped that …read more

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