Nurses with criminal convictions accounted for approximately 10% of the disciplinary actions taken by state boards of nursing (BONs) between 2003 and 2013. The purpose of this study was to better understand the types of crimes for which nurses are convicted and what actions BONs are taking to protect the public.
The records of nurses and nurse applicants who received disciplinary actions in the years 2012 and 2013 for a criminal conviction were extracted from the Nursys® database. Information on demographic and licensure characteristics, the type of crime committed, and the actions issued by the BON were coded and analyzed.
4,260 nurses and 559 nurse applicants received a board action in 2012 and 2013 due to a criminal conviction. Male nurses and licensed practical nurse/vocational nurses were overrepresented as compared to their proportion in the national nursing workforce. Driving under the influence, violation of the Controlled Substances Act, and theft were the most common crimes; probation and suspension of license were the most common BON actions. Board actions for egregious crimes and crimes involving patients were more severe. Among all nurses and applicants in this group, 18% failed to disclose a previous criminal conviction.
Overall, the vast majority of nurses are safe practitioners. The majority of crimes reported to BONs are not patient-related. This study provides evidence that BONs diligently address criminal convictions and evaluate whether the conviction is an indication that the individual is capable of practicing nursing safely.