People place their trust – and their lives – into the hands of nurses every day. If you’re thinking about getting into nursing, consider this: your background and character are important elements in determining whether you will be accepted into nursing school. In addition to clinical health requirements, admission to a nursing program also requires a criminal background check for two primary reasons. First, the clinical agencies where you will do your practice require that any student or faculty member sent to their site must first clear a criminal check. That’s done to protect the public, since nurses have access to personal information of patients who may be vulnerable. Second, all state boards of nursing must have a cleared criminal background check before you can even apply for a nursing license. Will a criminal record automatically disqualify you from becoming a nurse? Not necessarily. As with most cases, much depends on the severity of the offense and whether you’ve made restitution. But, if the check reveals a disqualifying event the burden is on you to prove the charges are incorrect. You typically are allowed up to one year to resolve an issue but even if a school clears you for enrollment, there are NO guarantees a clinical agency or state board of nursing will accept you as a candidate for registration, permit, or licensing. Should there be ANY change in your criminal background status after enrolling, notify the school as soon as possible. The most frequent violations include driving while intoxicated or possession of an illicit drug. If convicted, and in some cases even if charges are still pending, you may not be able to attend clinical rotations or apply for a nursing license. Because nursing is built around trust and character and is highly regulated, it’s important to avoid even the perception of having broken the law. As a nursing student, you must always be vigilant and weigh the consequences any action may have on your education and eventual goal to become a nurse. No, it’s not always easy. But I can tell you first hand, becoming a nurse is worth the extra effort. An expert in nursing education, Dr. Anders focuses on program and learning excellence.