Can a Felon Be a Nurse?

Pursuing a career in nursing is a noble and rewarding path, but for individuals with a criminal record, specifically a felony, the journey might be more challenging. When it comes to questioning whether a felon can be a nurse, the answer depends on a multitude of factors, including the nature of the crime, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the state’s regulations.

State Boards of Nursing are responsible for reviewing applicants’ backgrounds to ensure the safety and well-being of the public. The decision to grant or deny a nursing license to a person with a felony history is often subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis. Some states have specific rules surrounding the types of convictions that will result in the revocation of a nursing license.

It is essential for aspiring nurses with a criminal past to be transparent about their history and understand the challenges they may face during the licensing process. While the road to becoming a nurse for a felon may be more difficult, it is not necessarily impossible. Various factors, such as the applicant’s character, commitment to rehabilitation, and the nature of the crime, play a crucial role in determining their eligibility for a nursing career.

Legal Considerations for Felons Entering Nursing

State Regulations and Conviction Types

Each state has its own regulations regarding licensing nurses with a criminal background. In most cases, the state’s Board of Nursing (BON) is responsible for determining an applicant’s eligibility for licensure. Factors considered by the BON include the nature of the crime, how long it’s been since the offense, and the nursing applicant’s rehabilitation efforts.

Some states have rules that automatically revoke a nurse’s license upon conviction of a felony source. However, state BONs often review cases individually, considering the specific nature of the criminal charges.

To increase their chances of becoming a nurse, felons should:

  • Be aware of their state’s specific licensure regulations
  • Avoid committing crimes related to weapons, violence, embezzlement, dishonesty, misappropriation, fraud, or sex crimes
  • Exhibit rehabilitation efforts and show a commitment to living a law-abiding life

Expungement and Pardon Options

For those with a felony conviction, it may be possible to have their criminal record expunged or obtain a pardon. An expungement typically involves sealing or erasing a criminal record, while a pardon is granted by a state’s governor or the President of the United States and signifies forgiveness for the crime.

Both processes can differ in terms of eligibility and application requirements, depending on the state. It is important to research the expungement and pardon options available in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred.

By obtaining an expungement or pardon, a felon may:

  • Improve their chances of becoming a nurse by removing the conviction from their record
  • Demonstrate their rehabilitation and commitment to a law-abiding life to the BON

Nursing Licensure Requirements

Background Checks and Disclosures

Nursing licensure requirements often include a thorough background check and disclosure of any criminal history. This process aims to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and uphold the integrity of the nursing profession. Understanding the specific rules in your state is essential, as laws and regulations vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Some states, like New York, allow applicants to withhold information on sealed convictions, including misdemeanors or felonies. However, in other states like California, recent criminal convictions (within seven years) may lead to disqualification. It’s essential to review your state’s specific guidelines and requirements.

Licensing Boards and Moral Character

Each state has its own Board of Nursing (BON) responsible for assessing an applicant’s moral character and suitability for a nursing license. The board reviews each case individually, considering factors like:

  • Nature of the crime
  • Time elapsed since the conviction
  • Rehabilitation efforts
  • Impact on patient care

For example, Texas has provisions for individuals with criminal records to apply for nursing licensure, but some felonies might require a five-year waiting period. State boards may approve licensure for some felons if they demonstrate good moral character and personal growth.

In summary, nursing licensure requirements differ across states, with a key focus on background checks, disclosures, and an assessment of moral character by the respective Board of Nursing. It’s crucial to research and understand specific regulations within your jurisdiction to determine if a felony conviction affects the possibility of becoming a licensed nurse.

Educational Pathways for Felons

Nursing Programs Admission Policies

Nursing schools have different admission policies regarding applicants with felony convictions. Some schools may have no restrictions, while others may impose limitations based on the nature of the offense. It is important for aspiring nurses with felony convictions to research their preferred nursing programs and understand their policies. In some cases, individuals may be required to undergo a thorough review process before being considered for admission. Full disclosure of one’s criminal history and rehabilitation efforts can also increase the chance of acceptance into a nursing program1.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Pursuing a nursing education can be expensive, but there are financial aid and scholarship opportunities available for individuals with felony convictions2. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help felons determine if they are eligible for financial aid from the government and participating institutions. Some federal aid programs may have restrictions on eligibility based on the nature of the crime committed.

In addition to federal aid, there are also scholarships available specifically for those with criminal backgrounds. These scholarships aim to provide financial assistance and help individuals rebuild their lives through education. To access these opportunities, it’s important for prospective nurses with felonies to research available scholarships and apply before the deadlines.

A felon interested in pursuing a nursing career should investigate their state’s requirements, nursing program admission policies, and available financial aid resources to create a clear educational plan that increases their chances of success.


  1. The Nursing Site Blog: Can You Be a Nurse with a Felony? 
  2. Nursepective: Can A Felon Become A Nurse? 

Employment Opportunities in Nursing

Healthcare Employers’ Hiring Policies

While some healthcare employers might be hesitant to hire individuals with felony convictions, the opportunity to become a nurse with a felony still exists. Each state’s Board of Nursing (BON) has the discretion to issue a nursing license to an individual who has demonstrated change and wants to follow a law-abiding life.

Factors that might affect the hiring decision include:

  • The nature of the crime
  • Time elapsed since the conviction
  • Evidence of rehabilitation

Furthermore, state boards of nursing review cases individually and will consider the specific charges, the time passed since the crime, and any mitigating circumstances. As such, having a felony does not automatically disqualify a candidate from nursing, but it could pose certain limitations or challenges.

Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship in Nursing

For nurses with a felony considering alternatives to traditional employment, exploring self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities within the nursing field may be a viable option. Examples of self-employed nursing roles:

  1. Home health: Providing nursing care for patients in their homes.
  2. Nurse consulting: Offering expertise and guidance to healthcare facilities, insurance companies, or attorneys.
  3. Health coaching: Educating and guiding clients on health and wellness.

Moreover, nurses with a background in entrepreneurship could consider starting their own business in areas such as nursing education, product development, or niche care services. In these cases, it is crucial to be knowledgeable about the rules and regulations governing nursing practice, as well as state-specific licensing requirements.

Overall, while becoming a nurse with a felony might present certain challenges, it is not impossible. By understanding the hiring policies of healthcare employers and exploring alternative career paths within nursing, individuals with felony convictions may still find a way to pursue a successful career in the field.

Impact of Felony on Nursing Career

Career Advancement Challenges

A felony conviction can create significant barriers for individuals aiming to pursue a career in nursing. Depending on the nature of the conviction, one might face difficulties in obtaining a nursing license or even maintaining it after already becoming a nurse1. The state boards of nursing review felony cases individually, taking into consideration factors such as the type of crime committed, the time elapsed since the crime, and evidence of rehabilitation2.

For those with a criminal background, addressing the past and demonstrating rehabilitation becomes crucial. It might include seeking expungement of criminal records, participating in counseling or therapy programs, or engaging in volunteer work3. Such actions can help show personal growth and commitment to the nursing profession.

Perception in the Healthcare Community

A felony conviction could also affect the way an individual is perceived within the healthcare community. Nurses are often viewed as people of high ethical standards and trust. Having a felony record might raise concerns among colleagues and patients regarding the nurse’s character and ability to provide quality care.

Moreover, some healthcare facilities may have policies that restrict felons from being employed or pursuing career advancement opportunities. Consequently, this could limit the job prospects and upward mobility of a nurse with a felony background.

In summary, a felony conviction can present challenges in the nursing career, both in terms of career advancement and perception within the healthcare community. Nevertheless, by addressing past mistakes, demonstrating rehabilitation, and understanding the specific rules and requirements of the state, it is still possible for individuals with felony convictions to pursue a rewarding career in nursing.


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Success Stories of Felons in Nursing

One success story of a felon becoming a nurse involves a man who turned his life around after being released from prison. Following his release, he completed a reentry drug treatment program and spent considerable time gathering case records, police reports, and character references. Ultimately, he had his record expunged, which enabled him to pursue a career in nursing.

There are other examples of felons overcoming obstacles and achieving careers in the nursing field. Despite facing many challenges, these individuals displayed determinationpassion, and hard work to become nurses like any other citizen. However, it is important to note that the process of becoming a nurse with a felony record might be more difficult.

Various factors can impact a felon’s chances of becoming a nurse, including the nature of the crime, the time elapsed since it was committed, and the requirements of the state board of nursing. Each case is reviewed individually, and state boards of nursing consider the context and circumstances before making a decision.

  • Nature of the crime: Felons are more likely to face restrictions if their convictions involve major misdemeanors or crimes related to violence, fraud, misappropriation, weapons, dishonesty, or sex crimes.
  • Time elapsed: If a significant amount of time has passed since the commission of the crime and the individual has demonstrated rehabilitation, the chances of success might be higher.
  • State board requirements: Different states have varying rules and requirements in place. It is crucial for felons to familiarize themselves with the expectations of the state board where they wish to practice nursing.

In any case, it is essential for felons to be honest about their past and demonstrate their commitment to rehabilitation and personal growth. Documenting volunteer work, further education, and character references can play a vital role in this process. Despite the challenges, success in nursing is achievable for felons who are willing to work hard, persevere, and present a strong case to their respective state board of nursing.

Support and Resources for Felons

Peer Support Networks

One of the essential resources available to felons who want to pursue a career in nursing is peer support networks. These networks allow felons to connect with others who have faced similar challenges in entering the nursing field. They provide emotional support, advice, and helpful resources in overcoming the obstacles related to past convictions. By sharing their experiences and success stories, peers can inspire and motivate each other as they navigate the path towards nursing careers.

Professional Legal Assistance

Seeking professional legal assistance can be invaluable for felons wanting to become nurses. Lawyers and legal counselors with experience in nursing licensure laws can help individuals navigate the complex regulations surrounding felony convictions and licensure eligibility. They can advise on potential avenues for expungement or record sealing, which may increase the likelihood of obtaining a nursing license. Additionally, legal professionals can provide guidance on the appropriate disclosure of convictions on nursing school applications and during the licensure process.

Rehabilitation and Skill Building Programs

Access to rehabilitation and skill-building programs is crucial for individuals with felony convictions who aspire to become nurses. These programs may include educational opportunities that focus on personal growth and development, as well as vocational training in the nursing field. They may also offer mentorship opportunities with professionals in the nursing industry who can guide them through the process of pursuing a nursing career.

Participating in rehabilitation programs demonstrates an individual’s commitment to turning their life around and making a positive contribution to society. The skills acquired through these programs can help individuals with felony convictions become better candidates for nursing school admissions and licensure approval.

In summary, support and resources are available to help felons overcome the challenges they face in becoming nurses. Through peer support networks, professional legal assistance, and rehabilitation programs, individuals with past convictions can work towards a successful career in nursing.

Ongoing Professional Development

For individuals with a felony, the path to becoming a nurse may seem daunting. However, with a strong focus on ongoing professional development, it’s possible to improve one’s career prospects and stand out in the nursing field.

One suggested approach is to engage in continuous learning and stay updated on the latest healthcare practices. Pursuing advanced certifications and specializations can demonstrate expertise in a particular area of nursing, indicating a commitment to the profession1. This dedication, in turn, could potentially outweigh concerns about one’s criminal past.

Another strategy to consider is joining professional nursing organizations. Membership in these organizations can help expand one’s network, gain access to additional resources, and participate in relevant conferences and workshops. Being an active member in the community may lead to new opportunities and demonstrate a strong commitment to the field.

When preparing to apply for nursing licensure, it’s essential to research the rules and regulations in the specific state of interest. Each state’s board of nursing has its unique requirements concerning eligibility for individuals with felony convictions2. Gaining an understanding of these requirements beforehand will better prepare applicants for the licensing process.

In summary, focusing on ongoing professional development, pursuing relevant certifications and courses, and actively engaging with the nursing community can increase the chances of a successful nursing career for individuals with felony convictions. Researching state-specific requirements and being well-prepared for the licensure process will also improve the prospects of career success.


  1. [Ultimate Guide] Becoming a NURSE With Felony In 2024](
  2. Can You be a Nurse with Felony? – NursingTroop 

Advocacy and Legal Reform

Changing Laws and Public Opinion

The process of becoming a nurse with a felony record can be challenging, as some states may have specific restrictions on nursing licensure for individuals with certain felony convictions. However, there is a growing movement to change these laws and public opinion to allow for more equitable opportunities in the nursing profession. Advocates argue that individuals who have rehabilitated themselves and demonstrate the skills and qualifications necessary for nursing should not be automatically disqualified due to their past mistakes.

Several states have already taken steps to reform their licensing procedures, reducing the barriers faced by those with a criminal history1. These reforms may include expunging certain convictions, implementing individualized assessments of applicants, or offering conditional licenses with ongoing monitoring. Additionally, public opinion is slowly shifting towards acknowledging the potential of individuals with a felony background to contribute positively to the field of nursing, particularly as the demand for qualified nurses continues to grow.

Nursing Associations Involvement

Nursing associations play a crucial role in advocating for policy changes and supporting nurses with criminal histories who wish to enter or continue in the profession. These organizations often provide resources and guidance to help nurses navigate the complex legal landscape and understand the implications of their past convictions2. Furthermore, nursing associations frequently collaborate with lawmakers to promote the development of fair and inclusive policies related to nursing licensure.

Some associations have established programs aimed at assisting nurses with a felony background in their journey to licensure. These programs may offer support, mentorship, and assistance with rehabilitation efforts in order to demonstrate professional growth and readiness for nursing practice3. By actively engaging with stakeholders, including nurses, lawmakers, and the public, nursing associations can contribute to breaking down barriers and fostering a more inclusive profession for all.


  1. No restrictions on nursing licensure for individuals with felony convictions. State B. Convictions for certain violent felonies may disqualify individuals from obtaining a nursing license. State C. Individuals with felony convictions must undergo a thorough review process to determine eligibility for nursing licensure. 
  2. Becoming Nurse With Criminal Background. Having a criminal background can present obstacles in various professions, including nursing. However, it is not an insurmountable barrier, and individuals with a criminal history can still pursue a career in nursing by taking specific steps to address their past and demonstrate rehabilitation. 
  3. Her experience includes teaching students and nurses about legal issues that impact nurses. She also has legal experience in assisting nurses with BNE disciplinary matters. … If a nurse with a past felony conviction or a guilty plea obtains a license under the original NLC, the nurse remains eligible to hold a multistate privilege under the … 


Becoming a nurse with a felony background is indeed possible. However, the journey might be challenging due to various factors such as the type of crime, its timing, and the judicial sentence. It is important to note that every case is assessed individually and eligibility depends on the specific circumstances.

In the quest to create equal opportunities for individuals with felony convictions, there have been efforts in advocacy and policy changes to support their inclusion and success in the healthcare workforce. Fair hiring practices and awareness-raising campaigns are critical in making this a reality.

It is worth mentioning that certain types of convictions might disqualify an individual from pursuing a nursing career. These often involve major misdemeanors and felony convictions linked to weapons, violence, embezzlement, dishonesty, misappropriation, fraud, or sex crimes.

Despite the challenges, having a felony is not the end of one’s nursing career. The healthcare industry recognizes the importance of second chances and rehabilitation.

To summarize, people with felony convictions can:

  • Overcome obstacles with determination and positivity
  • Advocate for policy changes and fair hiring practices
  • Pursue nursing careers through thorough preparation and necessary legal actions

Ultimately, individuals with felony convictions should maintain a positive outlook and stay persistent in their pursuit of a nursing career. With the right mindset, support, and resources, they can overcome these challenges and find success in the healthcare field.


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