A guest blog by Evan Brown
Nursing boards take public health very seriously. In the interest of protecting public health, most boards take extra precautions to make sure that nurses licensed in their state have a proven track record of delivering excellent care. This includes a critical examination of nurses’ personal and professional histories.
Although you may be thinking that whatever happened was outside of work, the boards take the position that you are a nurse 24/7.
In most states, a blemish on one’s license or criminal record will not automatically bar a nurse from licensure of practice. The nursing board instead will conduct an investigation and make a decision in light of the circumstances at the time. In order to conduct an investigation, nursing boards need to be aware that an incident occurred. For this reason, nursing boards across the country have created self-reporting regulations for nurses to bring their criminal and disciplinary histories to the board’s attention.
Every nursing board asks about criminal and disciplinary history in its initial application for licensure and again on renewal. Boards differ in terms of what infractions must be reported. In general, any arrest, misdemeanor, felony, or plea of nolo contendre (an acceptance of the conviction without an admission of guilt) must be reported. Sometimes nurses must even report expunged convictions. Few require nurses to report minor traffic violations. When applying for licensure in a new state, every board also asks about prior and current disciplinary action by another board of nursing on the applicant’s license. An affirmative answer to any of these questions will often require the submission of court records and a written explanation of the event.
What about criminal convictions that occur after a nurse has received his or her license? When should these convictions be reported to the board? At minimum, every state board requires nurses to report such incidents when they renew their license. However, most states require self-reporting closer to the time of conviction. These timeframes range from “immediately” to between 10 and 90 days. One state, Arizona, requires notification of an arrest within 10 business days. Only in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia is there no duty to self-report. These states often rely on automatic police and court reporting to the board, it is still wise to self-report.
It is always best to self-report as soon as possible, even if the board neither requires a self-report yet nor at all. Doing so demonstrates honesty and initiative, which an appreciative board may take into account when determining a response. Seeking rehabilitation or counseling, performing community service, and other voluntary measures of atonement can also help the board look more favorable on your case.