Nursing Students with Past Convictions: RN License Guidelines

If you are getting ready to graduate from your nursing program and apply for your RN license, you are probably so excited! You’ve dedicated years to make it this far, only to learn that you may be denied your RN license because of a past misdemeanor conviction-you totally panic. Here is the good news: if you a nursing student with past convictions for a DUI or theft charge, there is a very – and I mean VERY– good chance that you will get your RN license, but there is a very good chance it will be on a probationary status right out of the gates. Depending on how much time has gone by, what you’ve been doing in the meantime, and how well you handle the application itself, there is a chance you will get the RN license free and clear!

There is one factor that determines, more than any other, whether you will be given your RN license when you apply with a past conviction and that is the letter of explanation. The letter of explanation is absolutely critical. It must be included with an application. You must say enough and enough of the right things but perhaps more importantly, you need to be extra careful not to say too much. Wow. Thanks. That was super helpful. I know that was about as clear as mud, but there is no way I can give advice on the letter without getting into the details of your specific case and why having an attorney help with the application process is so critical.

Here’s an example of a nursing student with past convictions that a past client was going to give regarding a DUI that we recommended changing. The client, let’s call him Jim, had battled all the way to trial over a DUI. The arresting officer had made some mistakes and had been less than kind; there was debate as to whether he falsified portions of the arrest report, etc., but in the end, Jim was convicted of a garden variety first offender DUI. His letter of explanation detailed all the problems the officer gave him and was very compelling, but it failed to accomplish what the Board of Registered Nursing wanted to see. His letter sounded like he was blaming the officer for the DUI when the State of California and a jury had determined that JIM was under the influence while he was driving and convicted him of that crime. The BRN wanted to see Jim take responsibility for his actions. The BRN wanted to see remorse for a poor choice that endangered the public. The BRN wanted to hear about what Jim had done since his DUI to ensure there was not a risk of reoccurrence. We scrapped the entire first letter, and Jim was a little irritated, but he certainly agreed when he was given his RN license free and clear a few months later.

We were thrilled when Jim was given the RN license, but we weren’t really expecting it. One of the other reasons it is important to have an attorney assist with the application is that we get to direct the case from the beginning. If Jim’s license had been denied and we needed to appeal that denial in order to get him licensed, Jim could have made our job much more difficult, if not impossible, if he had submitted his original letter.

So the reason why it is important to get some professional legal assistance with an RN application disclosing a past conviction is two-fold: 1.) It ensures you are submitting a properly executed letter of explanation and increases your chances of getting your license outright (the goal), 2.) If the application does get denied, you haven’t made it next to impossible for your attorney to win an appeal by making statements you shouldn’t have.

If you are a California student nurse getting ready to apply to take your NCLX and you realize that your past conviction could jeopardize all of your hard work, give me a call. I will listen to the details of your specific case, let you know what the likely outcome may be based on past cases we’ve handled and if necessary, help you through this process to get your RN license. We’ve done this hundreds of times, and to date, we have a 99.5% success rate in getting our clients licensed either on the first application or on appeal.



We can help you.

  • At this time, we only represent nurses and nursing students in California, Arizona, and Texas*

  • *For licenses in other states, please visit TAANA