Nursing is one of many health professions that requires a license as a condition of practicing to protect the public from harm and to ensure the public that the nurse has met the predetermined standards. The State Board of Nursing issues licenses to practice nursing, establishes the standards for safe nursing care, and acts against the licenses of those nurses who have exhibited unsafe nursing practice. An individual nurse is responsible for obtaining and maintaining nursing licensure, as well as complying with the licensure laws and regulations.

What is the Nurse Licensure Compact?

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was created by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and allows registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs) to have one multistate license with the ability to practice physically, telephonically, or electronically in any of the member states without having to obtain a new license in each state. This reduces the burdensome, costly, and time-consuming process of obtaining single state licenses in each state of practice. There is no difference between the term “compact license” and “multistate license.” They are used interchangeably to refer to the NLC.

What Changed?

Earlier this year, the Interstate Commission of Nurse Licensure Compact Administrators established an updated version of the NLC and set Friday, January 19, 2018, as the implementation date for the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Nurses who currently have a NLC will need to ensure that their state of practice is still a part of the new eNLC. Nurses who are residing in an original NLC state that enacted the eNLC are “grandfathered” into the eNLC if they held a multistate license on July 20, 2017.

If a nurse’s state of practice is no longer a part of the eNLC, they will need to obtain a single state license in order to continue practicing in the state. New nurses who receive their first license in an eNLC state will be able to practice in all the eNLC states. The current eNLC states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

To qualify for a multistate license, nurses must be a resident of an eNLC state and meet the uniform licensure requirements established by the Commission of the eNLC, including:

  1. Meets the requirements for licensure in their state of residency
  2. Has graduated from a board-approved education program OR from an international education program (approved by the authorized accrediting body in the applicable country and verified by an independent credentials review agency)
  3. Has passed an English proficiency exam (applies to graduates of an international education program not taught English or if English is not the individual’s native language)
  4. Has passed an NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN Examination or recognized predecessor, as applicable
  5. Is eligible for or holds an active, unencumbered license
  6. Has submitted to state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks
  7. Has no state or federal felony convictions
  8. Has no misdemeanor convictions related to the practice of nursing
  9. Is not currently enrolled in an alternative program
  10. Is subject to self-disclose current participation in an alternative program
  11. Has a valid United States Social Security number

“The eNLC not only benefits nurses with increased mobility to practice, it also increases access to care for patients. Additionally, new provisions in the eNLC enhance patient safety,” says Sue Tedford, MNSc, APRN, RN, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing and Chair of the Interstate Commission of Nurse Licensure Compact Administrators.

For more information about the eNLC, visit www.ncsbn.org.

Nuananong Seal & Mary Wiske

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is a nurse researcher and a consultant for health promotion and health prevention research.

Mary Wiske, RN, is a retired community health nurse.

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