A family friend was arrested about six years ago for misdemeanor indecent exposure but not sent to jail or put on probation. This individual has had a clear record since then, but now wants to apply to nursing schools. I am wondering if this arrest will be an issue. They are trying to get it expunged but live in a state that may be really hard on this situation. Do you have any advice you can share?
Dear Nancy replies:
Dear Carol Anne,
Some nursing education programs do require a background check for students admitted to their nursing programs. Additionally, those that do require background checks may or may not admit a student with a positive check. Only the educational program can provide your friend with that information, so he or she should carefully check the student handbook and admission policy of the college and nursing education program specifically.
One of the problems facing nursing education programs and those convicted of a crime is that many clinical facilities prohibit students with positive background checks from doing their clinical rotations there. As a result, the policy prohibiting the admission of an individual with a criminal background is necessary so that individual applicants don’t spend years doing coursework and then face the reality they cannot complete their degree due to the inability to complete clinical course requirements.
It is assumed that the arrest led to a conviction.Expungement of criminal records is specific to each state, so your friend should consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in the state to determine if this is possible. It also would be important to seek specific advice about what your friend should disclose to the school, even if expungement is possible.
It may be that the state may expunge the arrest/conviction, but if the information is shared with national law enforcement data banks, there still may be a record of the arrest/conviction despite an expungement. If your friend answers “no” to a question about arrests/convictions and the background check comes back positive due to the information still being present in a non-state database, your friend may face problems with the school for not answering the question truthfully.
Also keep in mind that many state boards of nursing have included in their nurse practice act and rules that individuals convicted of certain crimes may not be able to obtain licensure in a state while others strictly prohibit licensure.Your friend can discuss this issue with the attorney he or she consults.