The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to have one multi-state license, which offers the ability to practice in their home state as well as any other state included in the compact.
This is especially helpful for travel nurses, as they can practice in other compact states without having to obtain additional licenses. Additionally, travel nurses can begin an assignment immediately in a NLC state without needing to wait for single state licensure. Travel nurses possessing compact licenses are often considered more desirable because they can fill timely job vacancies.
WHAT IS THE NURSE LICENSURE COMPACT?
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was developed in 1999 with the goal of addressing regional nursing shortages and expanding access to telemedicine. Under the agreement, nurses licensed in one compact state are able to work in other compact states without obtaining a new license. 39 states are currently part of the nurse licensure compact, have passed legislation, or have pending legislation to join the compact. Two additional states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the Virgin Islands have passed legislation to enter the agreement and are awaiting implementation. As of August 2022, Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts are all currently pending legislation.
There are currently 39 states who have already implemented or are pending participation in compact state licensing. Check the NLC State Map to see if your home state is eligible.
What are Compact Nursing States?
As mentioned before, compact nursing states are where you can practice nursing and work in another state without having to obtain a new nursing license. As long as your primary state of residence is a compact state and you apply for an enhanced nursing licensure compact (eNLC) license, then you can practice in other NLC states without having to obtain additional licensure. Many registered nurses and travel nurses have compact licenses.
Why are Nursing Compact States Crucial?
Compact licenses are crucial for a variety of reasons. They allow nurses to practice and work across state lines easily. It makes it easier for nurses who live near state lines or who may live in one state, but work in another. If both states are compact nursing states, then nurses only have to hold one license.
This is especially important for travel nurses since they often accept assignments outside of their home state. If a travel nurse holds a multistate license, then they can practice in any state that participates.
CURRENT NURSING COMPACT STATES
Let’s review the list of current nursing compact states that have enacted eNLC requirements.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
COMPACT STATES PENDING IMPLEMENTATION
Guam is pending implementation for 2022. Nurses with compact state licenses may practice in Guam, but residents of the island must wait until implementation to obtain their multi-state license.
Ohio has an expected implementation date of January 1, 2023. Therefore, nurses with compact state licenses may not practice in Ohio until that date.
Pennsylvania initiated the process in July 2021, but implementation is TBD. Nurses will be required to submit criminal background checks. PA nurses may not obtain a multi-state license and compact state license-holding nurses cannot practice until implementation.
Vermont recently joined the Nursing Licensure Compact agreement in 2022. Nurses with compact state licenses may now practice in Vermont.
Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, New York, and the Virgin Islands all have pending legislation for eNLC, but an expected date has not been announced.
Some states are hesitant to enact the NLC for various reasons, such as loss of state revenue from single state licenses, disciplinary action, and threats to public health and safety. To combat this, thorough criminal background checks have been added to the application process.
STATES WITHOUT LEGISLATION FOR NLC
There are a few states which are non-compact states. These include:
- American Samoa
- District of Columbia
- Mariana Islands
TRAVEL NURSES SHOULD STAY INFORMED
Travel nurses are encouraged to sign up for Nursys. Through their free online verification system, Nursys delivers notifications and updates about the eNLC, as well as information about expirations, renewals, disciplinary actions, and endorsement tracking for nurse license verification.
Travel nurses who are interested in applying for a multi-state license can find more information on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) site.
Typically, applying for a compact state nursing license in your home state is a short process. Most of the time, if you already hold a single state license, the application process takes 10-15 minutes and you have to submit additional background screening. Once you submit your application, you should receive your new compact license within thirty days.
If you don’t currently hold a state nursing license, the application process will be a little longer. You will need to submit an application along with the required documentation to the nursing board. Usually, required documentation includes proof of passing your nursing boards, transcripts, and proof of graduation from a board-approved education program or international education program. After your application has been approved, you will need to pass a background check, and submit fingerprints, and photo proof of identification (i.e. driver’s license) through an independent credentials review agency. Once your single-state nursing license is approved, then you can apply for compact licensure.
Benefits of Being a Nurse in a Compact State
Whether you’re a staff or travel registered nurse, holding a multistate license is beneficial. If you plan to work in another state, then you don’t have to submit another application and wait for the state to approve your nursing license. However, this is true only if both states participate in the compact licensure agreement. This is beneficial for travel nurses, as they often practice nursing in several states.
Another benefit is that you don’t have to keep track of licenses from multiple states. It can be cumbersome to keep track of multiple licenses, renewal dates, and state requirements. Instead, with a nurse compact license, you only have to keep up with your primary state license and renewal requirements.
In addition, holding a compact license saves time and money. If you’ve accepted a travel nursing assignment in another state, you don’t have to wait for your nursing license. Since you don’t have to apply for a new state license, it also saves you money. Applying for another state license requires submitting another application, which costs money. Also, you don’t have to pay for another background check or fingerprinting.
Challenges of Being a Nurse in a Compact State
On the other hand, holding a multistate license poses some challenges. First, if your primary state of residence is not part of the nursing licensure compact, then you will have to wait for legislation to pass. This means you will need to apply for a new state nursing license for every state you work in. A way to overcome this challenge is to move home states. If you decide to move, then make sure your new state is a compact license state.
While you may hold a multistate license, it’s also important to review and understand each state’s nursing scope of practice. Just because a state participates in a compact licensure agreement, does not mean that a nurse’s scope of practice is the same for every state. New York and California typically have separate rules and legislations.
Another challenge is that if you currently hold a nursing license, you will still need to apply for a compact license. A state-issued and compact nursing license are separate licenses issued by your home state’s board of nursing. While upgrading your license requires a small fee, you will most likely also need to get fingerprinted and undergo an additional background screening. These costs will be in addition to your license application fee.
TRAVEL NURSES, TAKE ACTION
Nurses residing in non-compact states who wish to obtain a compact license can take action via the official Nurse Licensure Compact website. They have a convenient tool for nurses to send a message to legislation in support of the NLC.
Multi-state licensure presents nurses with the opportunity to physically and virtually practice in other states without having to go through the grueling process of applying to and waiting for single-state licensure. This is especially helpful for travel nurses who change assignments frequently.
Contact our travel nurse recruiters at Health Carousel Travel Nursing with any additional questions you have about multi-state licenses or traveling.
Lauren Rivera BSN, RNC-NIC is a certified neonatal intensive care nurse. She serves as a nurse expert for a mother/baby telehealth company, and develops content for various nursing sites and fellow healthcare providers.