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Can You Have a Criminal Record & Be a CNA?

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Certified nursing assistants help patients by assisting with personal duties such as feeding, ambulation, bathing and dressing. CNAs may also record vital signs and measure patient input and output. In most states, nursing assistants cannot work unless they complete a training program and have passed a state competency exam. Many states and employers also require that CNAs pass a criminal records background check. CNAs cannot work or be licensed if found to have committed certain offenses. However, the rules regarding exactly what disqualifies a CNA from licensing or employment differs from state to state.

Traffic Offenses

Routine traffic offenses, such speeding tickets or driving without a seat belt, are generally no impediment to becoming a CNA. However, if a driving-related offense is more serious, such as vehicular homicide or driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, it may cause problems with the state board or nursing or CNA licensing department.

Violent Crimes

Unsurprisingly, most states will automatically disqualify a CNA who has been convicted of violent crimes such as homicide, murder, assault, battery, arson, kidnapping or rape. If the offense was committed more than a few years in past, some states will allow CNAs to apply for an exemption. This generally entails a hearing before the state nursing board and/or providing a detailed explanation of the circumstances and subsequent rehabilitation by the nursing assistant.

Theft-related Crimes

Many crimes related to theft will often cause problems with becoming a CNA. A criminal history of retail theft, identity theft, forgery, robbery, burglary, credit or debit card fraud and Medicare fraud may prohibit a CNA from working, either for life or for a period of time. However, some states, such as Illinois, allow CNAs with past theft-related convictions to apply for an exemption waiver.

Drug-related Crimes

Though generally not considered violent crimes, drug-related crimes may also prohibit a CNA from working in some states. Manufacturing, delivering, distributing or engaging others to distribute illegal drugs often result in a CNA’s licensing application being rejected.

Elder or Child Abuse

A large number of CNAs work in nursing homes or other kinds of long-term care facilities. Past convictions of elder abuse will almost undoubtedly lead to a CNA being refused employment, licensing, certification or being listed on the state nurse aide registry. Child-related offenses, including negligence, transportation a child across state lines with criminal intent, abuse, incest or contributing to the delinquency of a child, may also result in an automatic rejection or waiver hearing.


Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.

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