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What Every Travel Nurse Needs to Know about the Nurse Licensure Compact

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Health Carousel Travel Nursing
March 2, 2022
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Although travel nursing offers tremendous opportunities, navigating the requirements of multi-state licensure can deter some from pursuing this path. Fortunately, The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has developed the Nurse Licensure Compact. This makes it possible for nurses to work in multiple states on a single nursing license.

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. 38 states are currently part of the nurse licensure compact, and three additional states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, have passed legislation to enter the agreement.

What are the requirements for a Compact Nurse License?

  • Nurses must be a resident in one of the compact states in order to obtain a multi-state license. Residency is determined by the state in which you file your income taxes.
  • Nurses must pass an FBI criminal background check.
  • There are two pathways to obtaining a compact nursing license: endorsement and initial licensure.

What is the time frame for obtaining a Compact License?

The good news is that you may already have a compact license. If you declare a state that participates in the NLC as your primary state of residence and are licensed in that state, there is no additional paperwork to fill out. Your nursing license is a multi-state license. The states currently participating in the NLC include:

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

If you decide to establish residency in a compact state to obtain a multi-state license, the length of time to complete the process will depend on several factors. The FBI background check is the most cumbersome step, as it can often take 30 days or more. The state board of nursing will also require information from your school of nursing if you are applying for initial licensure, or from another state or jurisdiction if you are applying for licensure by endorsement. On average, it takes four to six weeks to complete the nursing licensure process.

WHAT IF I’M NOT ELIGIBLE FOR A COMPACT LICENSE?

If your state of primary residence is not part of the NLC, don’t worry. You can still work as a travel nurse and the paperwork required for obtaining multiple state licenses is straightforward. Nurses without a compact license will need to apply for an individual state license in every state where they take a travel assignment. Luckily, most states offer temporary nursing licenses that allow travel nurses to obtain permission and start their travel assignment before the process of obtaining permanent licensure is complete.

Are you looking for your next adventure? Travel nursing offers top pay, great assignments in world-class hospitals, and the opportunity to learn a variety of valuable skills. Don’t let the complexities of licensure requirements dissuade you from enjoying the benefits of travel nursing.

Questions about travel nursing licensure requirements? Contact a HCTN recruiter today.

Author

Rebecca Brunelle is a pediatric nurse practitioner with experience in telephone triage, pediatric critical care, and pediatric cardiology. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since moving abroad, she has kept active in the nursing profession by doing international missions, writing nursing blog posts, and working in copy/editing for nursing curriculum.

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