Were you one of the thousands of nurses who cheered when the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) was implemented in the year 2000? The relief, particularly amongst travel nurses, was palpable in the hospital I worked in at the time. Finally, RNs and LPNs/VNs in compact states who were interested in employment across state lines had the burdensome and expensive process of applying to individual states removed.
With the NLC in place, nurses in compact states could now apply for one multi-state license from their respective Board of Nursing (BON) that, via the interstate agreement, allowed them to practice in other compact states. A visionary reciprocity agreement that brought together an unprecedented number of state BONs who, with courageous leadership and modern ideas, tackled the public health issues affected by an ongoing nursing shortage.
The NLC authorized:
- Compact licensed nurses to quickly respond to natural disasters across state lines.
- Compact licensed nurses to fill the gap in states where staffing is an ongoing challenge, i.e. rural areas.
- Compact licensed nurses to practice virtually – electronically or telephonically – from another compact state.
By 2015, the NLC had grown to 25 member states, a testament that an interstate nursing agreement substantiated the need for innovative licensing portability. But like all regulations, with time and a careful analytical approach, the need to update the NLC was evident. Licensing gaps between compact states had been identified and the need to ensure uniform multi-state licensure requirements was adopted.
On January 19, 2018, the new and improved Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) was implemented with the original compact dissolved on July 18, 2018. Under the new eNLC, all multi-state licensed nurses must meet the following eleven requirements:
- Licensure by their primary state of residence (PSOR)*.
- Graduation from a board-approved education program OR from an approved international education program.
- Pass an English proficiency examination (as applicable).
- Successful NCLEX-RN® or NCLEX-PN® examination or predecessor exam.
- An active, unencumbered license.
- State and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks.
- Zero felony convictions.
- No nursing-related misdemeanor conviction (determined on a case-by-case basis).
- Not currently enrolled in an alternative program.
- Self-discloses current participation in an alternative program.
- A valid social security number.
*A nurse’s PSOR is not related to property ownership but instead related to legal residency status. Legal documents that support PSOR include a driver’s license, a W-2 tax form, a voter’s ID card, or a DD Form 2058 for military nurses.
As of this writing, there are 31 member states that have adopted the eNLC, which include:
Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, 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.
Only those nurses who resided in an original NLC state that also enacted the eNLC were grandfathered into the eNLC if they held a multi-state license on July 20, 2017. Otherwise, nurses who live in states that weren’t members of the NLC but are now members of the eNLC and wish to obtain a multi-state license must complete the compact license application from their respective BON.
Nurses who reside in non-compact states must continue to apply for single state licenses, if they wish to practice outside their state boundaries.
It is important to remember that the eNLC requires nurses to adhere to the laws governing nursing care in each given state.
The NLC has been widely successful for over 17 years and we as nurses can be proud of the work the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) continues to do on our, and the public’s, behalf. Their constant focus ensures the increased opportunities for nursing employment across state lines not only maintains the public’s protection but also addresses the dynamic, evolving healthcare issues of the modern day.
Wonderfully, such success has caused a wave of interest from other healthcare provider regulatory groups, paving the way for the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) and the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact (PTLC).
And that’s just the beginning. We’re stepping boldly into the 21st century. Take a bow nurses – I’m proud to be a member of the team.
For specific state information, please check with your state’s BON.
For detailed information on the Uniform Licensure Requirements (ULRs) and more about the eNLC, please refer to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) toolkit.