Licensing Loophole Allows Convicted Criminals to Become Nurses in Minnesota

By Michael Klazema on 6/26/2012

Minnesota is one of fourteen states in the U.S. currently not requiring background checks for licensed nurses. Due to a simple yes or no question asking applicants if they have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor charges, a loophole exists allowing convicted criminals to become a licensed nurse if they lie on their application. In Minnesota alone, 50,000 people per year must self-disclose any convictions in order to get or renew their nursing license. According to Shirley Brekken, executive director of Minnesota’s state Nursing Board, the Board does not conduct a separate background check to verify whether or not license applicants are answering truthfully. When asked to gauge an estimate of how many applicants may be lying on their applications, Brekken replied she would “only speculate about that.” Brekken says that the nursing board does not have the resources to conduct criminal checks.

Investigators at Fox 9 in Minneapolis-St. Paul have uncovered several cases of nurses with criminal records working throughout Minnesota. When hospital nurse Jessica Baird went to renew her nursing license in 2011, she answered “no” to the convictions question, despite past convictions for a DWI and disorderly conduct. She was also under an active police investigation for stealing painkillers from a patient. The stolen pills were discovered after causing a car accident in which she and another driver were injured. The nursing board was not alerted until Baird pled guilty to the drug theft and related DWI and careless driving charges in April, after which the board suspended her license for 18 months. In another case, a licensed practical nurse working at an assisted living home in Minneapolis also lied on his renewal application. Nurse Bert Sieler had previous convictions for DWI and driving after revocation, before ending up in federal court for stealing over 400 Percocet pills from two residents in his care. Sieler pled guilty to the theft and for selling the pills, and the nursing board pulled his license once they were alerted to his crimes.

Although a criminal history found through a background check does not necessarily bar someone from obtaining a nursing license, it does alert regulators to take a closer look to ensure that person can be trusted as a care giver. The state of Kansas started conducting FBI fingerprint checks on nursing hopefuls in 2008 after it was discovered that a prison escapee stole a nurse’s identity and obtained a nursing license. Even after implementation of the criminal record checks, the Kansas Nursing Board still found a large number of applicants lying about their past. Twenty-nine percent had a criminal history that was not disclosed on their initial application,” said nursing board director Mary Blubaugh.

Don’t make the same mistake as the Minnesota nursing board by relying only on self-disclosure instead of using a background check. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide, provides several options for instant and affordable results. Their US OneSEARCH criminal record search also includes sex offender information from 49 states (plus Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico) with photos. Or try their National Wants and Warrants search. This search will give results within one to two days, and is a nationwide search of local, county, state, and Federal extraditable warrants, and may include misdemeanors or felonies. Most law enforcement agencies contribute to this database. Why leave it to chance? Find out what potential employees may be hiding with


About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and cofounder of the Expungement Clearinghouse - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit



Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 20 Employers who use E-Verify must follow the proper steps and procedures when they receive a “tentative non-confirmation notice” from either the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security. Failure to follow the proper procedures can cost employers both time and money. 
  • March 20

    Four Department of Commerce employees are out after their background checks resulted in security clearance denials. All four had worked high-ranking positions for months despite incomplete background checks.

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants. 
  • March 01 In an age of "industry disruptors" turning established business models on their heads, companies such as Uber and Lyft rely on a unique workforce of individuals outside the traditional employer-employee context. Uber calls them "partners" while other businesses refer to them as "independent contractors," the official classification these individuals use for tax purposes. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed they had warned a business, Postmates, for misclassifying their staff as independent contractors. In the NLRB's determination, these individuals were employees.