It can be intimidating to start the process of becoming a nurse in Florida when you know you have been convicted of a crime, or even just have an arrest on your record. There are few absolute disqualifiers and the decision to grant the license is ultimately up to the Florida Board of Nursing.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding who is eligible to be a nurse and who is not according to the Board of Nursing in Florida. Eligibility is decided on a case-by-case basis, which is not really what you want to hear when you are about to invest money and time into an education without knowing whether you will even be able to practice. This article will help take some of the guesswork out of the application process by explaining the law and rules related to nursing eligibility when you have a criminal conviction.
First, it is helpful to figure out what you actually have on your record. If you do not know, you can get a background check on your own or contact the court where you appeared and request the records. You will be required to have a background check when you apply to be a nurse, so it is a good idea to know what the Florida Board of Nursing is going to see. Whether you will be granted a license is going to depend on what you have on your record.
When conducting a background check on yourself, it is best to use the same source the at the Board of Nursing will use, and that is the records provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both agencies provide information on how to request a background check on yourself. The commercial background checks that are found online are not sufficient. While they may provide faster results at a slightly lower price, the quality of the reports are generally inaccurate and incomplete.
Florida Statute section 464.018 lists a number of offenses that will constitute grounds for denial of your nursing license. These include convictions such as robbery, child abuse, possession of a controlled substance and domestic violence. You can read the statute in its entirety at here. If you are convicted of one of these crimes, the Board does not have to issue you a license until you it feels you can safely be a nurse.
Additionally, Florida Statute section 435.04(2) also lists other offenses that could lead to your denial of a nursing license. This list repeats some of those found in 464.018, but also includes things like assault, battery, and sexual battery. You can view this statute here.
Finally, Florida Statute section 408.809 lists other disqualifying offenses. Again, there are some repeats from the above statutes, but this section also includes things such as Medicaid fraud, identity theft and forgery. This statute can be seen here.
It is important to remember, however, that even if your conviction is for a disqualifying offense, you are not prevented from becoming a nurse. There are several factors the Board of Nursing will consider when determining whether you should be issued a license. Clearly, certain convictions are more troubling to the Board than others. For example, because a nurse deals with patients typically in a vulnerable situation, something like theft or abuse of a disable person will be looks on less favorably than other type of convictions. Possession of controlled substances would also be concerning to the Board since nurses deal with medications.
Additionally, the number of convictions you have on your record will also be an important factor to the Board. If you have had five convictions over your lifetime, they are less likely to grant your license than if you only have one thing on your record. Moreover, the Board of Nursing will also examine evidence of your rehabilitation and anything else that indicates you will not repeat the actions that led to your conviction(s).
Another good option that may be available to you is expunging or sealing your record. In Florida, if your case was dismissed you may be eligible to expunge the record. If you received withheld adjudication, you may be able to apply to have the case sealed. Though you should still disclose the arrest or conviction on your application, expunging or sealing will show the Board that a court thought your were deserving of such relief. To see if you are eligible for one of these options, you can take this free online eligibility test.
Even if you have an arrest on your record that did not lead to a conviction, that arrest will still be seen on the Florida Board of Nursing and you will have to explain it. It may be wise to expunge the arrest and avoid the embarrassment or risk of adverse discrimination.
It also makes sense to contact a licensed Florida expungement attorney if you have convictions on your criminal background, particularly one that is listed above. An attorney’s evaluation of your specific case may help you decide whether it is worth investing into a nursing education.
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