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Patients entrusted to the care of certified nursing assistants deserve dignity and respect. However, they are often physically or mentally incapacitated and vulnerable to abuse. The very CNAs helping to bathe, groom, dress and feed patients may take advantage of their helplessness by stealing financial information or inflicting physical or psychological harm. Although the majority of nursing assistants provide quality care, states must protect patients, families and care facilities from those who do not. Therefore, criminal convictions may disqualify you from CNA work.
Many states will deny your CNA license if you have murder, assault or manslaughter convictions. Some states, such as Illinois, include domestic battery as a disqualifying violent crime. A background of violent crimes might also bar your admission to a college nursing assistant program. For example, Rogue Community College in Oregon conducts background checks, screening out potential nursing assistant students with violent crime convictions.
As the 2011 sexual abuse conviction of Fort Dodge, Iowa, nursing assistant Joel Babb demonstrates, patients receiving CNA care are vulnerable to sexual abuse, especially since they may not possess the mental or physical capacity to resist or say no. Therefore, some states may permanently disqualify you from CNA work if you have a conviction for rape, sexual abuse or other sexual crimes. Some states, such as Maine, might limit a sex offense disqualification to several years. Colleges may also refuse enrollment in nursing assistant programs based on sex crimes convictions.
Crimes Against Children
A record of crimes against children may indicate someone's temperament is ill suited to caring for vulnerable people who cannot defend themselves. Therefore, crimes of child abuse, child pornography, child sexual abuse and child abduction may result in disqualification from a CNA career or admission to a CNA program or courses.
Theft and Robbery
Elderly and disabled individuals are vulnerable to theft, financial abuse and identity theft by nursing assistants who have access to their homes, rooms or personal belongings. Many states have responded by refusing CNA licenses to applicants with identity theft convictions in their criminal history. Oregon permanently disqualifies you for convictions of theft, aggravated theft, organized retail theft, identity theft and robbery. In Maine, the disqualification may last for 10 years.
Some states offer waivers for certain crimes, allowing you to work as a CNA despite an otherwise disqualifying conviction. For example, Illinois has waivers for child abduction, home invasion, aggravated stalking, domestic battery or certain kinds of theft.
States may update lists of disqualifying offenses, so you should check the most recent list for your state before applying to a college CNA program or for a license. Some states may grandfather convictions prior to the state adopting or updating criminal background requirements. State laws may also grandfather licenses obtained prior to changes made to criminal background requirements.
If you have a criminal conviction that does not appear on your criminal background check, do not attempt to sweep it under the rug. If the licensing board discovers an undisclosed criminal conviction, it may revoke your license. In addition, just because you received a conviction in another state does not mean your slate is clean for a different state. States may consider convictions in other jurisdictions.
Karen Murdock holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. She has taught college composition since 2005 and written for a variety of publications since 1996.
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