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Will I still qualify to get my nursing license if I've been convicted of a felony?

Friday October 12, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I am a student concerned about the background check required when applying for my license, as I was convicted of a felony five years ago. I completed my probation and the conviction was removed from my record. Will I still qualify to get my nursing license?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Harriet,

Whether or not a felony conviction will keep you from obtaining your nursing license will need to be answered by a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who works in the area of professional licensure law. Some states, through amendments to their nurse practice and other professional licensure acts, prohibit someone who has been convicted of a felony to obtain licensure in the state. Other states evaluate factors they have adopted to determine whether or not a license can be issued to a convicted felon. Some of those factors include the type of felony, how many years have passed since the conviction and if the person successfully completed probation.

You should discuss with your attorney the mechanics of expungement of the conviction. Both states and federal law enforcement agencies keep databases of convictions. If your state checks the federal databases, as opposed to checking only a state database when doing a background check, you need to know that federal crime records are never expunged. So, his or her advice will be important in terms of whether or not to disclose the conviction, even though it may have been expunged in your state.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.