Nurse Licensure Compact 101

Before the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), practicing physically or electronically in more than one state meant having to apply for an RN or LPN/VN nursing license in every state in which you practiced. This was a costly and time consuming process. Thanks to the Nurse Licensure Compact, having to apply for and maintain multiple nursing licenses is no longer required for many. This change is making it easier for nurses whose home state is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact to practice in participating states, allowing them the opportunity to broaden their nursing horizons by working in critical nursing shortage areas, as a travel nurse, or electronically in multiple states.

In order to hold a multi-state nursing license, your primary residence must be in one of the compact states. Your primary state of residency is the state in which you pay federal taxes, are registered to vote, and/or hold a driver’s license.
The 24 states that currently participate are: 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 and Wisconsin.

If your RN or LPN/VN license is through one of these states, then you already hold a multi-state license. If you currently hold a multi-state license, it is important for you to be aware of the nursing guidelines for each state in which you work. Nurses who practice under a multi-state license are responsible for complying with the Nurse Practice ACT of the state in which they are practicing.

Although a multi-state license allows you to practice in any of the compact states, if your residency changes to another compact state, you must apply for a primary license in your new state of residency. If your residency changes to a noncompact state, you must apply for a license in that state, and your license then converts to a single-state license. This means that you will have to apply for a nursing license for every state in which you work. A multi-state licensed nurse who wishes to practice in a noncompact state must apply for a single-state license in the noncompact state. For example, if you hold a nursing license in Maryland and wish to work in New York, you would still have to apply for a New York nursing license because they are not a compact state.

Rest assured, practicing with a multi-state license is not a means of running from disciplinary action in one state in order to practice in another. All participating states provide information to a licensure system, NURSYS, that is available to other compact states. Any disciplinary actions or investigative process for which the nurse is involved will be reported to NURSYS, allowing all participating states to be aware of any issues. All compact states participate and report to NURSYS, as well as 20 other states.

The Nurse Licensure Compact has made working in multiple states much easier for nurses whose primary license is in a participating state. Each year additional states elect to participate. If your state is not currently a member be sure to keep current on licensure issues, so you will know if your state elects to participate.

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