Nursing is a respected profession, and the Florida Department of Health has strict rules to make sure that nurses are trustworthy and responsible, especially where there are substance-abuse implications. However, the state authorities are sensitive to the fact that people can change, and a single episode of DUI does not make for a drug addict.
Each application to become a nurse is reviewed on its own merit. The Florida Board of Nursing has created guidelines for specific offenses to be "cleared" for licensing by the board office, but the individual circumstances of each case are taken into account. A single DUI offense is not likely to stand in the way of licensure as a nurse. However, violent crimes and repeat offenses are required to be presented to the Board of Nursing for review, along with evidence of rehabilitation.
In addition to the Board of Nursing, each nursing program makes independent decisions about administrative,issions to clinical and classroom programs. However, none of these determinations are dictated by the law, and there is room for broad discretion in admission to programs.
It is worthy of note that effective July 1, 2012, pursuant to Section 456.0635 of the Florida Statutes, the Department must refuse to renew a license, certificate or registration if the candidate has been:
1. Convicted or plead guilty or nolo contendre, regardless of adjudication, to a felony violation of: chapters 409, 817, or 893, Florida Statutes; or 21 U.S.C. ss. 801-970 or 42 U.S.C. ss 1395-1396, or similar offenses in other state, unless the sentence and any probation or pleas ended more than 15 years prior to the application for 1st and 2nd degree felony; 10 years prior to the application for 3rd degree felony; and 5 years prior to the application for 3rd degree felony under Section 893.13(6)(a).
2. Terminated for cause from Florida Medicaid Program (unless the applicant has been in good standing for the most recent 5 years).
3. Terminated for cause by any other State Medicaid Program or the Medicare Program (unless the termination was at least 20 years prior to the date of the application and the applicant has been in good standing with the program for the most recent 5 years).
The Board of Nursing has provided the following FAQ:
What types of crimes must be reported on the application?
All convictions, guilty pleas and nolo contendere pleas must be reported, except for minor traffic violations not related to the use of drugs or alcohol. This includes misdemeanors, felonies, “driving while intoxicated (DWI)” and “driving under the influence “(DUI).” Crimes must be reported even if they are a suspended sentence.
Can a person obtain a license as a nurse if they have a misdemeanor or felony crime on their record?
Each application is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The Board of Nursing considers the nature, severity, and recency of offenses, rehabilitation and other factors. The Board cannot make a determination for approval or denial of licensure without evaluating the entire application and supporting documentation.
Do I have to report charges if I completed a period of probation and the charges were dismissed or closed?
Yes. Offenses must be reported to the Board even if you received a suspended sentence and the record is now considered closed.
What types of documentation do I need to submit in support of my application if I have a prior criminal record or license discipline?
Official court document(s) regarding each of your criminal offenses, showing the date(s) and circumstance(s) surrounding your arrest(s), sections of the law violated, and disposition of the case. This includes the complaint or indictment, the judgment, order of probation, docket sheet or other documents showing the disposition of your case(s). You may obtain these documents at the clerk of court where the offense(s) occurred.
Copies of documents regarding disciplinary action taken against any healthcare license. The documents must come from the agency that took the disciplinary action.
A detailed description in your own words of the circumstances surrounding your criminal record or disciplinary action. Include a description of the changes in your lifestyle since the time of the offense(s) which would enable you to avoid future incidents. List factors in your life, which you feel, may have contributed to your crime or disciplinary action and what you have learned.
The burden of proof lies with the applicant to demonstrate evidence of positive lifestyle changes. Examples include, but are not limited to:
Documented evidence of professional treatment and counseling you have completed. Provide a discharge summary, if available.
Letters of professional recommendation on official letterhead from employers, nursing program administrators, nursing instructors, health professionals, professional counselors, support group sponsors, parole or probation officers, or other individuals in positions of authority.
Proof of community service, education and self-improvement.
Court-issued certificate(s) of expungement, proof of compliance with criminal probation or parole.