Nursing Compact States: Information for New Nurses & Traveling Nurses

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Have you ever thought about relocating to a different state but weren’t sure if you would be able to practice there with the nursing license from your home state? Perhaps you’re dreaming about becoming a traveling nurse but feel overwhelmed thinking about the different licenses you would need. Good news – if you are a nurse residing in one of 37 US states or two US territories, the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) makes it a breeze for you to practice in different states with a single nursing license!

For those of you wondering what exactly the NLC is or which states fall into the category of nursing compact states, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’re sharing useful information about the compact state nursing license that new nurses and traveling nurses will find helpful!

What is the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)?

First established in 2000, the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was implemented to “increase access to care while maintaining public protection at the state level”. The NLC is an agreement among a group of states allowing nurses to hold a single license that allows them to practice in all states within the compact without needing to obtain additional licenses. Currently, the NLC applies to RN and LPN licenses only.

Before the NLC, nursing had always been regulated at the state or territory level. To become a nurse, you would typically have to complete your nursing studies, pass the NCLEX exam, and apply for your license in the state you reside in. This would allow you to practice as a nurse in that state. If you decided to relocate to a different jurisdiction, or work across state / territorial borders as a traveling nurse, you would need to obtain a license from that particular state or territory before being able to practice as a nurse.

This resulted in a lot of administrative and bureaucratic red tape, making it challenging for nurses to move or offer their services outside their states. To address this problem, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) created the compact nursing license under the NLC.

What are Nursing Compact States?

You may have heard terms such as NLC states, eNLC states, compact states, and nurse multistate license. All these terms refer to the same concept of having a single nursing license that allows you to practice in different states.

Practically speaking, if you reside in a nursing compact state and fulfill the requirements to get your RN or LPN/VN license by meeting the uniform licensure requirements, you are eligible for a multistate license. With this license, you are freely able to practice within any of the compact states.

If your nursing license is from a non-compact state, you are still free to practice within NLC states by obtaining a license for each state that you want to practice in. Getting a single state license for one NLC state does not make you eligible to practice in other NLC states and you will need to apply for a separate license for each state.

Which States are Nursing Compact States?

map of nurse compact states as of January 2023

There are currently 39 NLC jurisdictions. They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Guam is pending implementation in 2023, while implementation dates for Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands are yet to be determined.

Not sure where you can practice based on the license you have? Use this free tool by Nursys to verify your authorization to practice in different states!

Advantages of Getting Your RN / LPN License from a Nursing Compact State

For the more than 2 million nurses residing in compact RN / LPN license states, the advantages play out in terms of time, money, and effort when moving across states. If you have a multistate license, you can practice via telenursing in all eNLC states. You can relocate to any state within the NLC and can easily start practicing without needing to invest additional time, money, and energy into obtaining a new license for each state you wish to practice in. Nurse educators with the compact nursing license can also offer lessons via distance education in all member states.

As a military spouse who moves every 2 years, Shellie Neuman, RN has benefited greatly from the NLC which has allowed her to work in Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia with ease. Karen Holland highlights the benefits of having her RN multistate license in opening doors to new opportunities rather than being limited to what’s available regionally or locally.

Continuing Education Requirements for Nurses in Compact States

Being an RN in one of the compact states has a whole host of benefits. However, be aware that you are still responsible for fulfilling the necessary Continuing Education (CE) requirements to renew and maintain your nursing license!

Different states have different CE requirements as outlined by the state Board of Nursing (BON) and these can vary widely from state to state. Keep in mind that you need to meet CE requirements set out by the state in which you are practicing, rather than the state which issued your license. For example, if your nursing license is from Alabama but you currently practice in Utah, you will need to fulfill the CE requirements set out by Utah’s BON to renew your license.

Additionally, if you are practicing across different state lines, do familiarize yourself with the scope of practice and expected standards of practice for each state set out by the Nursing Practice Act for the state.

Always Stay On Top of Your Nursing CE Requirements

Fulfilling CE requirements as a nurse is complex enough without the added stress of navigating different requirements in different states. That’s why at Premiere Education, we’ve made it easy for you.

Get access to unlimited nursing CEUs with our subscription, the perfect option for any nurse in a compact state planning to work in other states! Easily fulfill your CE requirements, regardless of which state you’re based in, and receive your certificates right away. It’s the ideal choice for the savvy nurse who takes their learning seriously – find out more about our Unlimited Nursing CEU Subscription now!

Additional Resources about NLC:
NLC Fact Sheets & Resources
Impact in Action: NLC Stories

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