Nurse Licensure Compact: What It Is and How It Works

Nurse Licensure Compact What It Is and How It WorksA few weeks ago on Facebook, we asked our readers about blog posts that they’d find helpful. We always want to help you as much as we can, so we wanted to take some time to answer one of the more complicated suggestions today.

A reader asked: How the compact states work for nursing licenses, and how to get started getting a license in those states. Nurse licensure is an important (and sometimes complicated issue), so today we’re going to walk you through a few of the important points about the nurse licensure compact.

The Nurse Licensure Compact: What It Is

The Nurse Licensure Compact was designed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (the “collective voice” of nursing regulation in the U.S.) to make it easier for nurses to work across state lines.

It’s best to think of the NLC like a driver’s license: although different states have different driving regulations and tests, they’re all similar enough that you can use a driver’s license in all states. The Nurse Licensure Compact doesn’t cover all states, but makes it so that someone certified in a compact state can use that same license in other states–currently 24.

Here are all the states that are members of this agreement:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

The NCSBN is actively working to get more states to join in the agreement, but for now, you can count on these 24 states recognizing each other’s licenses.

Getting a Multistate License

Luckily, the NCSBN has made it very easy for nurses who want to take advantage of the ability to practice in multiple states.

Here are the steps you have to take if you live in one of the 24 states mentioned above:

  • You must legally reside in an NLC state
  • Hold an active RN or LPN/VN nursing license in good standing
  • If you have both of the above taken care of, you then declare an NLC state as your primary state of residency
  • The easy part is that if you meet all of the above requirements, your license will automatically be a compact multistate license as long as your license is in good standing

For people living in compact states, the process is (as you can see) very easy. Keep in mind that in order to get multistate privileges, you must actually live in a compact state. Someone living in Washington who applies for a license in Nebraska won’t get multistate privileges because a compact state is not their primary state of residence.

Using Your Multistate License

Things get a little more complicated in terms of actually using your license, but with a little reading, things are easier to understand. Here are a few of the most common situations:

  • You live in a compact state, and want to work in another compact state. This one’s easy: you can work in another state with no time limit so long as your license is in good standing. But, if you establish residency in the other state (get a driver’s license, register to vote, etc.), you have 30 days to obtain that state’s license by applying for licensure by endorsement. You’ll still have multistate abilities, but your residency will be changed.
  • You move from a noncompact state to a compact state. You must apply for licensure by endorsement in the new state of residency. Your individual state license issued by the noncompact state is not affected and will remain active if you maintain licensure and if so provided by the laws of the nonparty state.
  • You move from a compact state to a noncompact state. You must apply for licensure by endorsement in the new state of residency. Your compact license is changed to a single-state license valid only in that state. You must notify the board of nursing that you have moved out of state.
  • You move from one compact state to another. This is similar to the first situation. You can practice on the former residency license for up to 30 days. You will be issued a new multistate license and the former is inactivated. You must notify the board of nursing in the former residency state that you have moved out of state. Proof of residency may be required.

Especially as a traveling nurse, the Nurse Licensure Compact is incredibly useful. It makes the process of working in multiple states that much easier–you can work immediately while you switch states of residency–and we think it’s a really great program.

If you have any other questions about the NLC, you can either contact us here or check out the NLC’s FAQ. And if you have any other blog topics that you’d like to see us write about, don’t hesitate to let us know! We’re always glad to help. 

Image credit: NCSBN

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