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The Department of Health or State Board of Nursing manages the certification and registration of nurse aides in most states. The process of applying for certification varies by state. However, most states require applicants to complete an accredited training program, pass the nurse aide evaluation and clear a criminal background check before issuing a license. Although you can complete training and testing in a matter of weeks in some jurisdictions, the criminal background check can prolong the approval process. According to federal regulations, state boards must complete this vital step for all applications as a means of promoting public safety.
If you want to become a certified nursing assistant, a background check could disqualify you if you have a prior felony conviction. However, there is some hope as most states handle positive hits on a case by case basis. Your state board, must by law, issue a Denial of Licensure Notice if you’re guilty of one of several serious crimes, but you can apply for an exemption for all other issues.
Related: CNA Classes by State
The state’s application for licensure and certification will request details about your history, including:
- Details about any convictions
- Past actions taken against you in another state, including denial of licensure and certification
- Details of mental or physical illness or chemical dependency, which could impair your ability to make sound judgments.
It is critical that you provide honest and accurate information on your application for licensure. Don’t try to cover up or make light of any convictions as the criminal background check will unearth the details (now or sometime in the future), and it could affect your certification and employment opportunities.
Indicating “yes” to any questions about past convictions does not automatically invalidate your application. The state board will first gather more information and may schedule an administrative proceeding before making a decision to grant or deny approval of your application.
Submit Supporting Documentation
Criminal convictions delay the approval of your application for certification. However, there are some things you can do to expedite the process.
Keep the following documentation on hand and be prepared to submit to the board of nursing when requested:
- A certified copy of conviction orders
- Proof that you fulfilled all court ordered requirements (paid fines and restitutions or letter from the probation officer)
- Compose a letter explaining the events that led to the criminal conviction. Stick to the facts only; do not make excuses
- Recommendation from employers describing your performance at work.
The board may approve your application based solely on the documentation provided. If they need additional information, they will schedule an informal fact-finding session before making a final decision. After the hearing, they will either approve the application, approve it with conditions or deny the application.
Also see: CNA Requirements by State
Criminal Convictions and Employment
State laws require operators of nursing homes, hospice programs and assisted living facilities to obtain a criminal background check of new hires within 30 days of employment. Criminal convictions related to instances of abuse or neglect will serve as immediate barriers to employment. Other criminal convictions, such as possession of marijuana, hazing, prostitution and traffic violations may not disqualify you from employment. However, it pays to keep in mind that each employer will have their own policies for approving or denying an application for employment.
If the employer denies your application for employment based on your criminal historical record, they must provide you with a copy of the criminal convictions report.
Your conviction remains on your licensure and employment record even if you’ve had your civil rights restored or pardon granted. Therefore, you must reveal your conviction on any application for licensure or employment.