As hotspots for COVID 19 continue to pop up across the nation, travel nurses are encountering a very small barrier to their ability to mobilize and go where help is needed. This small barrier, isn’t a mountain, just a piece of paper. A very important piece of paper, or lack thereof really: their state nursing license.

Licensed, skilled, and willing to go where help is needed nurses are discovering the frustration of the bureaucracy involved in applying to another state for a reciprocity agreement. You might be thinking, but what about the multistate license or the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC)?

What is the Nursing Licensure Compact?

The nursing licensure compact enables registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs) to practice not only in their home state (provided their home state is part of the NLC) but within any other state that is also part of the NLC. If you have a compact license, you can easily expand your job searches and count on less paperwork for your travel nursing jobs. However, the NLC is not a nationwide license, each individual state has the discretion to join, or not join.

Short History on the Nursing Licensure Compact

In 2000, the NLC began and slowly some states joined the compact until in 2015 there were 25 member states. Lots of states held out, however, because they felt the NLC was not rigorous enough. One factor that led to holdouts from various states was that the NLC did not require applicants to be fingerprinted for state and federal background checks.

In 2018, the NLC transitioned to the eNLC (“e” for enhanced). The eNLC implements 11 licensure requirements, they are:

  • Meets the requirements for licensure in their state of residency
  • Has graduated from a board-approved education program OR has graduated from an international education program (approved by the authorized accrediting body in the applicable country and verified by an independent credentials review agency)
  • Has passed an English proficiency exam (applies to graduates of an international education program not taught English or if English is not the individual’s native language)
  • Has passed an NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN Examination or predecessor exam
  • Is eligible for or holds an active, unencumbered license 
  • Has submitted to state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks
  • Has no state or federal felony convictions
  • Has no misdemeanor convictions related to the practice of nursing
  • Is not currently a participant in an alternative program
  • Is required to self-disclose current participation in an alternative program
  • Has a valid United States Social Security number.

Since the implementation of the licensure requirements for the eNLC more states have joined the compact agreement. There is a current total of 34 active states (August 2020) which includes New Jersey that has only a partial implementation of the eNLC. Five more states have legislation pending for the compact license. They are Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The Arguments for a National Nursing License

  • The license exam is the same nationwide. This is a simple argument, but perhaps compelling.
  • Faster mobility in times of disaster. To work in states that don’t participate in the compact license you have to apply for endorsement to the nursing boards of the state you wish to work in. The paperwork slows down the mobility. When there’s a natural disaster or say a pandemic, healthcare workers being able to mobilize to where they are needed is vital.
  • Increased access to healthcare. It’s no secret the nursing industry has a shortage. It’s a highly competitive field and there is more demand in some places than there are in others. Populations in states that have a high demand but are part of the eNLC are more likely to have better access to the healthcare they need because recruiting efforts are not limited only to one state.
  • Wider-reaching recruiting. This ties into the previous argument of increased access to healthcare. Medical facilities and healthcare systems in eNLC states have a wider reach for recruitment to find specialized and non-specialized clinicians for employment.

Why Not Join the eNLC?

In spite of the arguments for a national license, or the eNLC, there are still several states that have not joined. The states not part of the eNLC are Connecticut, District of Colombia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and some travel nurse favorites such as Hawaii, California, and New York.

So why have these states not joined the eNLC? The arguments against joining the eNLC are primarily centered around concerns of safety, while others may be financially motivated. The concerns include:

  • There would be less revenue of single state licenses
  • Concerns for patient privacy
  • Unsureness about the growth of telehealth
  • Concerns for how the eNLC would handle disciplinary actions
  • Concern that a nurse prohibited from working in one state would simply move to work in another

What Do You Think?

What has been your experience? Do you have an eNLC license? Has it made an impact positive or negative on your ability to travel for nursing jobs? If you don’t have an eNLC license, are you interested in one? Have you traveled to work in a state that isn’t part of the eNLC? For more information on compact licenses visit the official site.

Join Elite Specialty Staffing

Our travel nurses have work contracts in both eNLC states and non-compact states. Our staff is experienced with helping travel nurses navigate the bureaucracy and paperwork involved to ensure they are licensed to work in the state of their choosing for each work contract they sign. To be clear, we can’t do it for you. However, we will help you get started, and provide guidance. If you run into issues, let us know and we can see how to help.

Other benefits that can be yours when you join our pool of talented travel nurses include:

  • Competitive wages
  • Flexible schedules
  • Bonuses
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Housing stipend
  • 401k plans
  • Weekly direct deposit

To join, simply fill out our easy online application and pack your bags!

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Written by Miranda Booher, RN

As a twelve-year Registered Nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and healthcare marketing, Miranda brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has a impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Uruguay, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her hanging out on the beach with her loyal husband, three crazy kids, and their beautiful German Shepherd-Husky dog.

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