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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Pre-Employment Screening Topics National Police Checks Police Check for Nursing in Australia - Guidelines for Nursing

    Police Check for Nursing in Australia - Guidelines for Nursing

    The police check in Australia is a nationwide document. It helps employers and other decision makers to assess the "suitability" of their candidates. This is particularly important for sensitive roles like nursing where workers have regular access to vulnerable persons in our community.

    How does a Police Check work?

    The Police Check result contains all records of a person's engagement with the Australian legal system. The offences/convictions disclosed in a Police Check result are related to the purpose the candidate selects.

    Criminal history checks for Nurses

    Like most other recruitments and roles, the police check is also an essential requirement for anyone who wants to be a Healthcare worker.

    The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) makes it mandatory for all applicants to declare their criminal history in all places they ever resided. It may also include disclosing your criminal record for convictions obtained outside the country.

    How does the NMBA assess a candidate's Police Check?

    When assessing a candidate's criminal records, the "NBMA" must abide by some rules. These rules are called the "Registration Standards". And decide whether a health worker’s criminal history is relevant to their practice.

    A significant factor in assessing an applicant's criminal records is how such convictions will "affect" their roles.

    The effects do not have to be physical or immediate. It can also be the estimated impact such history will have on their clients, patients or people they provide their services.

    Who assesses the Candidate's Police Check?

    Generally, the Australian Health Practitioner regulatory Association (APHRA) assesses the applicants’ Police Check on behalf of the NMBA. How each candidate fairs depends on how their convictions meet up to the regulatory standards.

    What are the regulatory standards?

    The regulatory standards are rules or principles that the national Board (AHPRA) adheres to when dealing with a nursing applicant's criminal records. The Regulatory Standard is a check on Police Check assessment for Health Practitioners.

    Does a Regulatory standard apply to me?

    The Standards apply for the assessment of all Health care applicants who submit their criminal records for evaluation. It does not usually apply to people of other fields or students who use it in the health care sector.

    What are the considerations in the Required Standard?

    The purpose of the required standard is to guide the Board when assessing an applicant's criminal records. And it is essential to determine how relevant the applicant’s conviction is to their role, especially as nurses.

    Here are the general factors;

    • The nature and gravity of the offence or alleged offence

    The more severe or grievous the conviction/sentence a person gets, the more relevant/influencing it to become in the job. For example, being convicted of common assault is different from when such assault occurs against a pregnant woman or person above 60 years.

    The Board considers how the degree of the offence will affect their nursing roles.


    • How long ago the person committed the offence

    The period between application and last conviction is an essential factor when assessing the records. The Board will usually place more severity or wariness on those with recent criminal history.

    Recent criminal history is an indication that the applicant may still possess those inclinations. Or such a person may not have fully repented of their crime.


    • Finding/no finding of guilt

    If the Magistrate/Judge or Jury finds a person guilty of all charges, they will sentence the person up to the required penalties by law.

    However, some offences may be less severe, that they more consider a sentencing term a “harsher” or disproportionate punishment. In such situations, the court will issue a no guilt finding.

    When the Board assesses the applicant's national criminal record checks, here is the degree of relevance (descending order) they consider each result;

    • Convictions.
    • Findings of guilt.
    • Pending charges.
    • Non-conviction charges.
    • The sentence the court imposed

    Of course, the court will impose punishments that are appropriate with the degree of the crime. And imprisonment terms are severer penalties compared to Conditional Release Orders (CROs) or Intervention orders.

    The Board will also consider any other mitigating factor that comes with the sentencing.


    • The age of the applicant/victim when the violation occurred

    Applicants who already had conviction records at younger ages, especially under 18, may be deemed "lower risk" to the Board.

    The Board may also put more weight on convictions given for offences against victims who are under the age of 18 and vulnerable people.


    • If the conducts or legislation that defines such offence is now decriminalised

    It sometimes happens that some laws may be reviewed and decriminalised under State or Territory Sentencing Acts or the Crimes Act (Cth). All persons convicted under the law will have such convictions removed from their criminal records when such happens.

    The Board will place little weight or far lesser consequences on such convictions in an applicant's background check.


    • Records/Recommendations since their conviction

    Any indication that the Board can find that shows that such convictions were only an aberration will prove a mitigating factor. Some of them can include;

    • ✔ Reports from parole officers,
    • ✔ Recommendations from past employer of community,
    • ✔ Clean records since last conviction,
    • ✔ No subsequent Police or criminal records.

    Alternatively, any factor that proves that such offence shows some patterns (repeat/regular offender) can count against the applicant.


    • The Possibility of danger to their patients

    Of course, the Board considers the impact of such records on their potential patients as a priority. If a criminal record shows a non-repentant pattern, the Board may declare such applicant a potential threat to their patients.


    • Other matters the Board consider relevant.

    The Board has the discretion or independence to interpret a criminal record according to internal organisation principles. However, they will not request biased information that may affect their assessment based on a pending charge.

    The Board may also consider as mitigating factors, explanations the applicant provides around a conviction.

    Where can I get a National Criminal History Check?

    The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (Ahpra) conducts criminal history checks for applicants that apply for the first time.

    Applicants can also obtain their national criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC®) website. The application form and informed consent form is completed online. A link to the online police check application form can be found here.

    The majority of checks are dispatched within 24 hours, with the exception of those checks that get referred for manual processing.

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