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By Ashley Gallagher, Assistant Editor
Almost all health care professionals face a series of questions when they apply or reapply for their professional licenses.
Almost all health care professionals face a series of questions when they apply or reapply for their professional licenses. The journalNursing2017discusses this issue on their Legal Matters column in the October 2017 issue.
The reason that licensing authorities screen for applicants’ potential legal problems is to protect the public health. For obvious reasons, states do not issue licenses to applicants with certain legal issues. A nurse who has an abuse conviction, for example, is less likely to receive a license than a nurse who has a lesser conviction. At all times, it is up to states employees to conduct an investigation and make a final determination about licensure.
The author, a nurse who is also an attorney, addresses the anxiety most health care professionals feel when they see questions about scrapes with the law. Many licensed professionals may be worried about encounters with law enforcement for minor drug offenses, traffic issues that involve alcohol, or family disputes (domestic violence or custody issues). Increasingly, licensing authorities are concerned with social networking issues that are on the rise, like stalking, harassment, and menacing.
The author indicated that attorneys will ask the typical questions of what, where, when, and what ultimately happened in court. Nurses who have legal issues are well advised to engage an attorney and examine their options.
Additionally, many licensing authorities ask for disclosure of both criminal arrests and criminal convictions. This usually excludes traffic citations for minor moving violations.
The author noted that much of the information that the licensing authorities asked for is publicly available, and the licensing authority may hear about a nurse's legal issues in a number of ways. Most states run criminal background checks on applying and reapplying individuals. Failure to disclose is a serious concern. Not reporting incidents can lead to charges of perjury or criminal fraud.
Finally, the author points out that states vary in the way they deal with these issues. Usually, they act according to the state’s criminal code and certainly an arrest has fewer repercussions than a conviction. The author concluded that those applying or reapplying for a license who have an arrest record or criminal conviction can review the criminal record avenues available in their jurisdiction and consult a criminal law or employment law attorney.
Starr KT. Background checks: Do you have something to report?Nursing2017. October 2017. Pages 11-12.