The United States is on the brink of a nursing shortage of monumental proportions, with some areas already feeling the crunch more than others. Thankfully, nursing is a portable profession—an experienced nurse can step into nearly any hospital or clinic and, with brief on-the-job training, practice safely all over the country.
This allows nurses to fill crucial roles as travel nurses, disaster response nurses, or nurses who choose to put down roots in a new location. However, red-tape can seriously hinder a nurse’s ability to provide care to patients who desperately need their services.
Early in the 20th century, the U.S. legislated that boards of nursing in each individual state would govern the practice of the nurses in their home states to ensure close oversight. As the decades have passed, clinical oversight has become easier as technology has made the world smaller.
The 21st century brought with it a new concept: the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This allowed nurses who had obtained licenses in one of the states that adopted the NLC to practice nursing in any other NLC state, commonly known as a compact state, without needing an additional license. In addition to providing in-person care in the NLC states, nurses can participate in the ever-growing telehealth practice. The Enhanced NLC (eNLC) was adopted early in 2018 to expand the number of states as well as the requirements for licensure in these states.
Nurses who pass the NCLEX, meet the Uniform Licensure Requirements (ULRs) set forth by the eNLC, and apply for a nursing license in one of the 29 states in the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact are the proud owners of a multistate license. If you have one of these multistate licenses and wish to take a travel nurse assignment in another eNLC state, you are legally allowed to do so without additional licensure.
Nurses who do not have a multistate license and wish to practice in an eNLC (or non-eNLC) state are more than welcome to do so, but they must apply for licensure by endorsement in the chosen state. The process is the same for nurses who nurses who have a multistate license but would like to take a travel nurse assignment in a non-compact state.
Here is a map and list of the states in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact:
Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia, or Wyoming are a new to the eNLC. Therefore, if your license was obtained before 2018 (and you want to practice in another compact state), you must apply on your state’s board of nursing website for a multistate licensure.
If your license is in one of the original compact states other than Rhode Island, you have a multistate license and are free to practice in other Compact states. Rhode Island did not ratify the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, so nurses with a Rhode Island license now have a single-state license. As previously stated, these nurses are not barred from practicing in other states, they are just required to apply for, and obtain, licensure by endorsement in their desired state.
Ultimately, the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact is breaking down barriers to care by putting nurses where they can do the most good without wasting time on red tape. Perhaps the new generation of nurses will see the entire country come together in the eNLC to increase access to care across each state.
Facts about the NLC: Nurse Licensure Compact. https://www.ncsbn.org/NLC_Facts-FINAL.pdf. Accessed June 15, 2018.
Original Nurse Licensure Compact. https://www.ncsbn.org/nurse-licensure-compact.htm. Accessed June 15, 2018.
Nurse Licensure Compact: Fact Sheet for Faculty and Students. https://www.ncsbn.org/Faculty_and_Students_Fact_Sheet_New_4252017.pdf. Accessed June 15, 2018.