Interstate licensing for health care professionals has been pondered for decades, and at the turn of this century the concept was formalized for nurses in the Nursing Licensure Compact. The original compact of 2000, which was signed by 11 states, permitted licensed nurses to practice in any of the signatory states without obtaining separate licenses for each. The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) was adopted in 2018, adding a provision allowing registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs) to hold a single multistate license, with the privilege to practice in their home state and other NLC states.
Another important provision of the eNLC requires federal criminal background checks. By March 2021, 34 states had enacted and/or implemented legislation, and full national implementation is expected sometime later this year; no official date has been announced.
(Advanced practice registered nurses [APRNs] are not included in the eNLC, but a multistate practice compact was adopted in August 2020 and will be implemented when seven states have enacted the legislation; to date only one state has done so.)
Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided impetus for final passage of this important interstate agreement, with the sharp uptick in nurses traveling to other states to meet the desperate need for nursing care in pandemic-stricken areas nationwide. With an eNLC license, nurses can quickly and easily respond to medical and environmental disasters in other signatory states.
As a travel nurse, you are probably well aware of the eNLC and may even hold a multistate license already. But there are some quirks and quibbles you may not be aware of. Here are a few:
- You must apply for a multistate license in your primary state of residence. If you live in a state that has not yet entered the compact, you must either obtain separate licenses for any state where you want to work OR get an endorsement to your state’s license from that state. The endorsement applies to that state only.
- To verify your primary state of residence (your legal residence, not property you own) may be verified by driver’s license, federal income tax return, voter registration, or other documents that demonstrate a primary residence. Only one state can be identified as the primary state of legal residence for NLC purposes.
- All states that have signed the compact have adopted a uniform set of minimum requirements in addition to each state’s specific requirements. These address education, standardized nursing test proficiency, current licensure status, background checks, among others.
- If you move your permanent residence from one compact state to another, you can apply for an endorsement in your new state; the endorsement nullifies the license from your previous state.
- A nurse employed by a federal government agency or the military who holds a multistate license from their home state may not obtain an additional single state license in any other NLC state; the multistate license allows the nurse to practice in all NLC states.
- If a nurse on a visa from another country applies for licensure in a compact state, the nurse must declare either the country of origin or the compact state as their primary place of residency. If the foreign country is declared the primary state of residency, the nurse may be eligible for a single state license issued by the compact state.
If you are considering a travel response assignment in another state and aren’t sure whether your current license applies there, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has provided an online tool, NurSys Quick Confirm, that lets you quickly check your eligibility and provides information about each state’s emergency response waivers, including states that have not yet entered the compact.
Questions or concerns regarding your license? Visit our Travel Nurse Licensing page or give us a call at 866-463-0385. We are always here to help you.