Can A Felon Be A Nurse In 2024?


Individuals convicted of a felony struggle to find a job when they’re released from prison.

That being said, there are many felony-friendly industries that offer a second chance to former convicts, such as manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, construction, etc.

However, some ex-felons want to get a nursing license and join the healthcare industry.

What Is a Felony?

Whether or not you can become a nurse as a felon depends on the severity of the crime and the circumstances of the conviction. But before we go into further detail, let’s discuss what constitutes a felony in the first place.

Crimes are usually placed into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Felonies are the most serious crimes, such as first- and second-degree murder, rape, manslaughter, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, child pornography, robbery, burglary, and more.

Did you know? Even less serious crimes can constitute felonies, including tax evasion, perjury, blackmail, cybercrime, identity theft, and driving under the influence.

Felonies are usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or even death. Once an individual commits any of these felonies and is found guilty, they become a convicted felon.

Can You Be a Nurse With a Felony?

When felons complete their prison sentence, they are allowed to rejoin society and look for work. But this is easier said than done. The felony you committed will be recorded on your criminal record, where it will stay for life.

When companies recruit for an open position, they run a criminal background check on all candidates. If you have a felony on your record, they will find out about it.

But this doesn’t mean that felons can’t find a job when they get out of prison. Many companies have embraced the so-called “Ban the Box” law, which prevents discrimination against ex-felons during job interviews.

It gives them a fair chance to compete with other candidates, and if they get turned down, it won’t be because of their criminal record.

But since nurses work in healthcare, they have to go through a stricter background check. The last thing any hospital or healthcare institution wants is to place its patients and other employees at risk. Not to mention that becoming a nurse isn’t an easy task, even without a criminal history.

If you want to become a registered nurse, you would have to earn an official degree from an accredited institution, pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam, and obtain a state license.

Keep in mind that every state has its own set of rules pertaining to registering to be a nurse with a felony.

But when you apply for a nursing license, it’s up to the nursing board to grant or refuse your request. Whether or not you can become a nurse with a felony depends on a few factors.

The Nature of the Felony

The most important factor is the nature of your felony. Certain types of felonies immediately disqualify you from employment. For instance, murder, sex crimes, aggravated assault, robbery, and more.

Since nurses have access to various medications, manufacturing, delivering, and dealing controlled substances will permanently stay on your record, and you won’t be able to work in healthcare again.

Nursing boards also look at the number of times you committed the same (or a different crime) and how you behaved during your sentence.

The Time of the Conviction

As mentioned, if you committed a felony, it will stay on your record forever. But if you committed a crime more than 10 years ago, employers will likely be more lenient in their decision.

Nursing boards don’t only look at how much time has passed since your conviction. They also consider the number of years that have passed since you completed your sentence.

Some states, like Texas and Arizona, require you to wait at least five years after you’re released from prison before applying for a nursing license.

Not only that, but nursing boards also take into consideration how old you were when you committed the felony. If it’s something you did when you were an adolescent, you have a greater chance of getting accepted into a program.

Your Pre-Employment Drug Screen

Aside from criminal background checks, aspiring nurses also have to go through pre-employment drug screens. It goes without saying that a failed drug test will result in immediate disqualification.

Your Behavior and Attitude

As already discussed, your behavior during the entire conviction and incarceration process can make a huge difference.

The nursing board will look for evidence of rehabilitation and your attitude towards re-entering society. This will help them determine whether you pose a risk to society and potential patients.

Tips on Becoming a Nurse With a Felony

Even though becoming a nurse with a felony isn’t the simplest process, there are many things you can do to improve your chances.

The first step is the state where you would like to apply for a license. Do some research about the nursing board you’re interested in and if they have any rules for felons.

If you want to become a nurse, it’s implied you want to help people recover. You can show the nursing board how devoted you are by applying for volunteer programs, helping out the elderly, giving back to the community, etc.

This doesn’t only show the nursing board that you’re serious about your job, but it also shows that you’ve been able to return to society.

You want to be as trustworthy and honest as possible. The last thing you should do is try to cover up your criminal background.

Be upfront about your convicted crime right from the start of the hiring process. If you try to hide your felony, there’s no doubt the nursing board will find out about it. A simple background check will reveal any criminal history.

Another option is to run a background check on yourself. This will help you prepare for the interview.

Did you know? It’s possible to get your convicted felony removed from your criminal record by expunging it. But this isn’t possible for all felonies. The less serious the felony, the better the chances of expungement, especially if you only committed that one crime. But keep in mind that this is a lengthy, complicated process.

If you’re afraid that you still won’t get accepted, your final option is to apply for a license in a state that doesn’t enforce criminal background checks. These include New Hampshire, Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, and New York.

Don’t Let Your Felony Prevent You From Becoming a Nurse

Being a nurse is an honorable, rewarding job. But those who have committed felonies in the past have a slim chance of joining the healthcare industry.

However, just because it’s a complicated process doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

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