Compact State License: What It Is and Why You Need One

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
July 7, 2022
Share this post

The United States is on the brink of a nursing shortage of monumental proportions, with some areas already feeling the crunch more than others. Thankfully, nursing is a portable profession—an experienced registered nurse (RN) can step into nearly any hospital or clinic and, with brief on-the-job training, practice safely all over the country.

This allows nurses to fill crucial roles as travel nurses, disaster response nurses, or nurses who choose to put down roots in a new location. However, red-tape can seriously hinder a nurse’s ability to provide care to patients who desperately need their services.


Early in the 20th century, the U.S. legislated that boards of nursing in each individual state would govern the practice of the nurses in their home state or primary state to ensure close oversight. As the decades have passed, clinical oversight has become easier as technology has made the world smaller.

The 21st century brought with it a new concept: the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This allowed nurses who had obtained licenses in one of the multiple states that adopted the NLC to practice nursing in any other compact nursing license state, commonly known as a compact state. This allows nurses to hold one RN license without needing to obtain multiple single state licenses. In addition to providing in-person care in the NLC states, nurses can participate in the ever-growing telehealth practice. The Enhanced nursing licensure compact (eNLC) was adopted early in 2018 to expand the number of states as well as the requirements for licensure in these states.

Nurses who pass the NCLEX, meet the Uniform Licensure Requirements (ULRs) set forth by the eNLC, and apply for a nursing license in one of the nursing compact states in the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact are the proud owners of a multistate license. If you have one of these multistate nursing licenses and wish to take a travel nurse assignment in another eNLC state, you are legally allowed to do so without additional licensure.

Nurses who do not have a multistate license and wish to practice in an eNLC (or non-eNLC) state are more than welcome to do so, but they must apply for licensure by endorsement in the chosen state. The process is the same for nurses who have a multistate license but would like to take a travel nurse assignment in a non-compact state.


The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has provided a map and list of the states in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

There are several states with partial implementation or pending legislation for the nursing compact license. To view a list of the legislation pending compact states, partial implementation, and the only national database of compact license states, click here.  If your license was obtained before 2018 (and you want to practice in another compact state), you must apply on your state’s board of nursing website for a multistate licensure.

If your license is in one of the original nursing compact states other than Rhode Island, you have a multistate license and are free to practice in other Compact states. Rhode Island did not ratify the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, so nurses with a Rhode Island license now have a single-state license. As previously stated, these nurses are not barred from practicing in other states, they are just required to apply for, and obtain, licensure by endorsement in their desired state.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Nurse in a Compact State?

If you are a resident of one of the compact nursing states, you may apply for a compact nursing license or multistate license. If you have a compact license, you will only have to hold one nursing license and be able to practice nursing in other states that participate in the nursing licensure compact agreement. This cuts down on the costs to obtain additional licenses to practice in different states.

How Do I Apply For a Compact State Nursing License?

To apply for a compact multistate license, you will need to submit another application through your state board of nursing. You will need to fill out an application, submit proof of graduation from a nursing board approved education program, and undergo an additional background and fingerprint screening. Typically this is where your state requires you to self-disclose current participation in pending license violations, and screens for federal felony convictions. Also, the board of nursing will ask about any misdemeanor convictions related to nursing licensure violations.

Where Can I Find The Compact Application?

To find your state’s compact license application, go to your home state’s board of nursing website. Usually, you will find it under the licensing section and can find the application and requirements there. 

Ultimately, the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact is breaking down barriers to care by putting nurses where they can do the most good without wasting time on red tape. Perhaps the new generation of nurses will see the entire country come together in the eNLC to increase access to care across each state.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand

Get Started Now


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand

Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

Woman standing with suitcase looking out at the city