The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is an interstate agreement that allows RNs and LPNs to have one license to practice in other states, as long as that other state participates in the NLC as well. The NLC is especially beneficial to travel nurses.
As a travel nurse, your license is issued by your own state of residence, but if you live in a Compact state, instead of having to apply in other states to practice when you take a new assignment, as long as you’re traveling to another NLC state, your license is valid.
The NLC has guidelines nurses need to abide by. As an RN, you’re still held to the same practice laws in the state you’re working with patients in and can still have your license revoked in that state just as it was prior to the NLC enactment in 2000.
Living in a compact state gives you the freedom to work in other compact states. As a travel nurse, this allows you much more flexibility in getting employment across state lines.
In 2018 the NLC was updated to the new Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) to streamline the process. This new eNLC included licensing standards that the original compact didn’t have, such as fingerprint background checks. Those who were residing in an NLC state were moved automatically to this improved eNLC and going forward, anyone applying would be a part of the eNLC.
Why having an NLC is helpful for travel nurses
While there are issues that still need to be worked out in order to get all states on board for the NLC, there are some great benefits for nurses, particularly those who travel and/or aid in responding to disasters.
For starters, since travel nurses need to work in different states to help fill gaps in staffing needs, it makes sense to have one license for you to practice in multiple states. This gives you plenty of flexibility to work in a variety of locations and go where you’re needed.
No delays in assignments
The NLC is convenient, as travel nurses don’t have to delay moving to another NLC state. There’s no waiting for applications to go through and no additional licensing paperwork that needs to be filled out.
Contributes to patient populations
Not only is the NLC helpful for travel nurses, but it also benefits the patients and health care facilities. It can be difficult to maintain proper staffing levels, especially in more rural and underserved communities. A nurse with an NLC has an easier time taking jobs in these areas if there’s just one license to practice under.
Along with this convenience, brings more affordability because there’s no need for application fees for obtaining nursing licenses. It also saves time and resources for health care facilities. Because of this, you may have a competitive edge over someone without a compact license due to being able to start working immediately.
Some states are still holding out
While the NLC is helpful on many levels including the state’s ability to bring in nurses for proper staffing needs, concerns do exist from non-NLC states.
For instance, each state has different requirements for nursing professional development, namely in its continuing education. As of now, there’s no policy that addresses this. The number of continuing education hours differs from state to state, and some states, such as Arizona, don’t have any CE requirements at all.
Also, each state has its own Nurse Practice Act and under this, it guides what that state’s nurses are allowed to do. For example, in Alaska, nurses cannot dispense medication or perform exams. The concern from the Alaska Nurses Association is that nurses coming to that state with a compact license can’t easily be enforced with this regulation.
Finally, while nurses are held to their own state’s regulations on discipline, these criteria aren’t the same in every state. If a nurse is issued a complaint about unsafe conduct in one state, that state can’t investigate and discipline that nurse. It’s the nurse’s home state that issues disciplinary action. This can create inconsistencies since discipline is treated differently depending on the state.
How to be a part of the NCL
Currently, there are 33 states that participate in the NLC. They include:
Alabaman, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, 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.
Five states are pending implementation:
- New Jersey (to be determined)
- Vermont (February 1, 2022)
- Pennsylvania (to be determined)
- Ohio (January 1, 2023)
- Guam (to be determined)
If you live in a compact state and hold a single state license, you can go to your state’s board of nursing (BON) and complete an application for a multistate license.
If you are planning on working in a non-NLC state, you would still need to apply and pay for licensure in that state.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has a moving scenario factsheet so you can find out exactly what you need to do if you live in a compact or non-compact state.
The NLC overall is a positive benefit with a few kinks to still work out. Check with your state’s BON to stay updated on any new information regarding the NLC.