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A criminal record won’t always stand in your way of becoming a licensed practical nurse, but it could put up a few roadblocks. Licensing laws vary from state to state, so where you live has a tremendous impact on how potential employers will view your criminal record. The type of offense on your record also makes a difference.
Individual states license LPNs, so it is up to your state to determine how it views criminal records. Some states simply won’t accept any applicant with a criminal record. Others consider the type of offense committed and how much time has passed since your conviction. Contact your state’s nurse licensing board regarding its policies dealing with criminal records. Locate the licensing board through the state department of labor.
Type of Violation
States differentiate between offenses in a number of ways. Some accept misdemeanors but not felonies. Others get more specific about the charges. In Illinois, for example, the Health Care Worker Background Check Act sets out a list of offenses that disqualify you from working in health care in any capacity. Across the board, drug-related offenses and physical or sexual assaults can be particularly problematic to becoming an LPN. The timing of your violation might also matter. Some states overlook your criminal record if a set amount of time has passed between your conviction and your application.
Weighing Your Record
Where a criminal record doesn’t prevent you from becoming an LPN outright, it may subject your application to extra scrutiny. In Florida, for instance, applicants with convictions deemed serious by the licensing committee must go before the state nursing board for further examination. The board may require additional information about your crime and conviction and ask for written character references. It might even ask you to appear.
Since every state has its own way of handling criminal convictions, contact the licensing agency well in advance of applying to become an LPN. Find out if there is any additional information you will need to submit with your application, or if there are any additional procedures to follow. Reach out for advice from the licensing board and your nursing school. Above all else, never try to obscure your conviction on your application. This will show up in your background check anyway, and failing to disclose your criminal record may itself be a criminal offense.
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Lily Welsh is a freelance writer from North Carolina, though she has spent much of her adult life living abroad. She is the About.com Guide to Music Careers, and her work appears frequently in other Web-based and print publications. Welsh has worked in the music industry for 15 years and counting and holds B.A.s in international studies and economics.