The compact nursing licenses are revolutionizing the way nurses practice and healthcare employers recruit across the United States. The compact license enables nurses to work in different states without the hassle and cost of obtaining additional licenses. This, in turn, provides healthcare employers with a larger pool of qualified nursing candidates. Navigating the NLC's intricacies can be daunting, which is why we've put together this comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know. We discuss the basics of the multi state license, the benefits it provides, and how to obtain a new license both under the compact and by endorsement. This guide will help you make the most of the compact license. So let's dive in and make the most of this game-changing agreement!

What is the Compact State Nursing License?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a non-profit organization that serves the interests of state boards of nursing in the United States, first launched the compact license in 2000. The NLC was created to tackle the challenges faced by nurses who wanted to practice in multiple states, as they had to obtain a separate license for each state. This process was not only expensive but also time-consuming, making it impossible for nurses to work in other states.

Initially adopted by four states, the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact (INLC) evolved into the NLC over time, and today, 38 states are members. The NLC has successfully facilitated the delivery of safe and efficient nursing care across state lines, and it has also helped to address the nursing shortage by allowing nurses to practice in multiple states. By increasing the pool of available nurses for healthcare facilities, the NLC has ensured that patients receive quality care regardless of where they are.

In 2017, the eNLC was implemented to replace the NLC. The eNLC builds upon the original NLC and includes additional requirements for nurses, such as a criminal background check and a uniform disciplinary action process. The NLC will continue to play a vital role in ensuring that nurses can offer safe, reliable, and effective care across state lines as healthcare evolves.

Compact Nursing States (eNLC Members)

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to have one multistate license, which grants them the privilege to practice in their home state as well as in other compact states. Currently, there are 38 states in the compact, with the remaining states either having legislation pending or awaiting implementation.

See the full table at the end of the article.

States with Pending Legislation

States with pending legislation have already passed the NLC legislation, but they are still in the process of implementing it. This may be due to administrative or technical infrastructure or other challenges.

  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Oregon
  • New York
  • Washington
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

It is worth mentioning that some of these states may have a partial implementation of the compact license, which means that nurses can practice with a multistate license under certain conditions.

Currently Non Compact States

Non compact states, on the other hand, have not yet passed the NLC legislation, but some of them are in the process, awaiting implementation date. The process may take some time due to various factors, including legislative priorities, budget constraints, and political climate. The states currently in this category include

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania

Nursing Compact States: Moving Scenarios

When changing a legal residency, you will need to apply for nursing licensure by endorsement in the new state, regardless of the NLC status. It's important to note that your state of legal residency is established by the primary state or the state in which you hold a driver's license or ID.

  • Compact to Compact States

You’ll need to apply for licensure by endorsement. Once all requirements are met, you will obtain a multi state nursing license in the new state, and your prior multi state status becomes invalid, making your previous license a single-state one.

  • Non Compact to Compact States

Apply for licensure by endorsement for a full, unrestricted registered nurse license in your new state. After the RN license has been issued and the eligibility requirements are met, you’ll be able to apply to upgrade your new license to a compact multi state status. Note, that you are not bound by compact rules, that limit licensees to one nursing license in their primary state of residence

  • Compact to Non Compact States

Unlike the previous scenario, you will have to give up on your multi state status. After applying for licensure by endorsement and meeting the requirements, the only license you will have is a single-state license of your new state of residence. Please note, that you will then be ineligible to practice in any of the compact states without obtaining a single state license in each one.

  • Non Compact to Non Compact States

After applying for a license by endorsement (or exam) you will obtain a single-state RN license for the new state.

You can start the procedure before or after the move. However, it’s better not to delay, so you can start working as soon as you relocate. Note, that If you’re moving from a non-compact state and apply early, you may obtain a single state license, or the application can be put on hold until you provide proof of legal residency. Only then you may be issued a multistate license.

How to Obtain a Nursing License for Multiple States

Whenever you decide to expand your practice across the country you’ll have two options: either obtaining a license by endorsement for each state you want to practice in or getting a license under the national compact.

Nursing License by Endorsement

Here's the deal: licensure by endorsement lets you obtain a license to practice in other states without having to complete additional nursing education or testing. But the requirements for obtaining a license by endorsement vary by state.

You must have an active nursing license, meet the new state's education and examination criteria, and present verification of your license, education, and experience. In addition, you must pass a criminal background check and complete any other state-specific requirements.

It's important to note that under the NLC, you can practice in multiple states under one multistate license, meaning no need to obtain additional licenses for 38 states, while licensure by endorsement requires you to obtain a separate license for each state you want to practice in.

So, when might you choose licensure by endorsement? If you plan to work in a non-compact state, you'll need a separate license for that state. And if you don't meet the eligibility requirements for a multistate license under the NLC, licensure by endorsement might be the way to go.

You can also opt for a license by exam.

Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact

Now, that you know why and when to apply for a nursing license by endorsement, and have decided that you want a multi state license, it’s time to break down the steps and requirements to obtain a compact state license.

How to Determine Compact License Eligibility

To begin, you must be a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in good standing with the nursing board. You'll also need to have a permanent address in a compact state and meet any additional requirements set by that state.

In most cases you will have to:

  • Graduate from a board approved education program
  • Successfully pass an NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN Examination
  • Undergo fingerprint-based criminal background checks
  • Have no state and federal felony convictions
  • Have no misdemeanor convictions related to the practice of nursing

Obtaining a Compact state Nursing License in 4 Steps

Once eligibility has been confirmed, the steps to obtain a compact nursing license are relatively straightforward:

1. Apply for a compact license status

This will involve filling out an application and submitting any necessary documents, such as transcripts, proof of residency and background checks. Don't forget to pay the required fees!

2. Wait for approval

The Board of Nursing will review your application and make a decision. This process can take a few weeks, so be patient.

3. Receive your compact nursing license

This is the key that allows you to practice nursing in another compact state.

4. Maintain your license

This means meeting the renewal requirements in your state of residency and following the rules and regulations of the state where you are practicing nursing.

Timeframes for Processing Nurse Licensing Applications

Understanding the processing timeframes for different nursing licenses is crucial, although they can vary greatly by state and license type. It is important to have at least a general understanding of these timeframes to plan ahead and consider other options. Here is an overview:

  • eNLC License: 2-4 weeks
  • Nursing License by Endorsement: 4-6 weeks
  • Nursing License by Exam: 4-8 weeks

Pros & Cons of the eNLC

While there are both advantages and disadvantages to the NLC, many nurses see the benefits as outweighing the potential drawbacks.

Key Benefits of a Compact State License

  • Increased Mobility

38 states to practice almost immediately after you obtain the NLC.

  • Reduced Costs

Leaving only 12 state licenses to gain for extra fees. And there is a chance you might not be needing them. In contrast, obtaining a license by endorsement requires paying for each state separately.

  • Increased Job Opportunities

The ability to work wherever you want is not the only thing worth remembering. The nursing shortage is on the rise, and hospitals and other healthcare facilities are actively seeking out nurses who hold a multistate license.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 6% increase in job growth for nurses by 2031.
  • Improved Access to Telehealth

The telehealth market is growing at an enormous pace, and so are telenursing jobs. According to the American Telemedicine Association, half of all hospitals in the U.S. offer some form of telemedicine, while 90% of healthcare executives are developing or implementing a telehealth program.

Read more about the telehealth market challenges & opportunities.

Key Limitation of a Compact State License

The key limitation of the multistate compact license is that it currently only applies to RNs and LPNs/LVNs. It means that advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) will still need to get multiple state licenses to practice.

Let’s Sum Up

The NLC allows nurses to practice in multiple states under one multistate license. Currently, 38 states are members of the Enhanced Compact which includes additional requirements for nurses. Nurses who plan to work in non-compact states need a separate single-state license. To obtain a multistate license under the NLC, nurses must be licensed in good standing, have a permanent address in a compact state, and meet additional requirements set by the state.

Just like the IMLC, the Nurse Licensure Compact is growing popular, with more states accepting it every year. It is a game-changer for nurses everywhere as it opens up multiple opportunities for travel nurses, working military spouses, telehealth nursing, or rapid response during an emergency.

On the national level, the compact is a remedy to the nursing shortage. By considering the benefits of a new multistate license through the NLC, you can elevate your career, achieve the work-life balance you want and become a savior for short-staffed facilities.

NebraskaNew HampshireOhio
New MexicoNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota
OklahomaSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
VermontVirginiaWest Virginia

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