Map Source: NCSBN.org
The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement between states that allows nurses to have one license but the ability to practice in other states that are part of the agreement.
Originally developed in 2000, by 2015 the license had grown to include 25 states. To help streamline the process for nurses the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) was implemented in 2018 and included standards for licensure which the originally compact license was lacking.
For example, the NLC did not require applicants to undergo state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks, whereas the new eNLC does.
Goals were developed for every state to become a member of the NLC but there was resistance from some states regarding the requirements for licensure. While the eNLC continues to grow, there are still states that still do not want to be included in the license.
The eNLC will continue to increase access to health care, reduce overall costs to insurance companies, hospitals, and individual patients, and support efficient and strong health care delivery.
The eNLC became effective on July 20, 2017, which allowed the Interstate Commission of Nurse Licensure Compact Administration to begin drafting appropriate rules and regulations for the new licensure.
In January 2018, the new multi-state licenses were issued to all nurses who applied to transition from the old license. New nurses getting their first license in an eNLC state will be able to practice in all eNLC states without delay. This option is highly effective for travelers who do not wish to waste time between contracts. Furthermore, it helps reduce costs on application fees and license renewals. Unfortunately, California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii are not currently part of the eNLC. These states are a few of the most desirable for travel nurses in the U.S.
Each eNLC state is responsible to notify nurses by mail of the changes to the license and the process to obtain an enhanced compact license. As more states continue to join the eNLC, additional nurses will have the option to streamline if they hold multiple licenses.
What It Means For Nurses
So what does this mean for nurses? Nurses who currently practice in states with pending legislation do not have to do anything until the bill(s) are passed. Once the state becomes a part of the eNLC, the state board will reach out to all nurses registered with the state. Nurses then will be required to ensure their permanent address is up to date with the state board in order to determine compact license eligibility.
Nurses that are NOT due for license renewal will not be required to pay an additional fee to transition to the eNLC. A new license will be issued to all nurses that meet requirements for the eNLC.
It is important to note that you must claim residency in an eNLC state in order to apply for a compact license. As a non-resident of an eNLC state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement for the state but will only be issued a single-state license instead of the compact license. Nurses can hold multiple single-state licenses.
New licensure nurses will still need to apply for a license via the state website. Applicants will then have the option to apply for the eNLC with their permanent address or apply for a single state license. If at any time your permanent address moves to a non-eNLC, you are required to submit this to the state nursing board and your eNLC could potentially be revoked.
Nurses are highly encouraged to sign up for the Nursys e-Notify system which delivers real-time notifications about updates to the eNLC. If also will deliver information regarding expirations, renewals, and disciplinary actions. This service is free of charge and is a patient safety initiative that is supported by the U.S. Board of Nurses and NCSBN. More information can be found at www.nursys.com.
In terms of continuing education (CE) requirements, a nurse holding an eNLC must meet the CE requirements for his or her own state. Each state, regardless of the eNLC, requires specific CE courses and a specific number of hours. Renewal requirements are only related to the state that issued the eNLC, not the state in which the nurse practices.
Breakdown of the States
Twenty-four of the original NLC states have enacted the eNLC or have pending legislation. Four additional states have pending legislation waiting for approval before joining the eNLC. As of January 9, 2020, there are currently thirty-four states part of the eNLC.
Here’s a comprehensive listing of all states currently impacted by multi-state compact licensing.
Current eNLC States
- Indiana (Starting: TBD)
- Louisiana (Registered Nurse and Practical Nurse)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey (Starting: TBD)
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia (Registered Nurse and Practical Nurse)
States with Pending Legislation for the eNLC
- Massachusetts –
- Michigan –
- Pennsylvania –
- Guam –
States without Legislation for the eNLC
- District of Columbia
- New York
- Rhode Island (part of original NLC)
- US Virgin Islands
Recently, Washington, Vermont, Michigan, and Illinois all had bills that were denied at the state government level to join the eNLC. Nurses in those states are currently fighting legislation to join the eNLC. Movements in Washington have forced government officials to reconsider; however, the main concern is that licensure should be in the state the nurse practices for safety reasons. The eNLC assumes that safety practices and scopes of practice are the same for every nurse in every state and while this is true, the State Board of Nursing in Washington still remains opposed.
Requirements for eNLC States
The Commission has developed 11 uniform licensure requirements for a multistate license.
- 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.
An applicant must meet each of the aforementioned requirements in order to apply for the eNLC. These requirements are specific only to the eNLC and were developed in hopes that all states would eventually join the eNLC. The Board carefully reviewed each state’s requirements for licensure and included specifics in order to increase eNLC participation.
The NLC and eNLC are supported by many organizations throughout the country. A few of these include:
- American Association of Colleges of Nurses
- American Association of Neuroscience Nurses
- American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
- American Association of Poison Control Centers
- Association for Vascular Access
- Commission for Case Manager Certification
- Emergency Nurses Association
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
- National League for Nursing
- National Military Family Association
- National Patient Safety Foundation
- Oncology Nursing Society
- U.S. Department of Commerce
Unfortunately, some states and organizations do not support eNLC. Interestingly, a study conducted in 2014 indicated 70% of nurses were in favor of their state joining the compact license. Major concerns from states unwilling to join the eNLC at this time are:
- Disciplinary actions under the eNLC
- Growth of Telemedicine and telenursing
- Loss of state revenue for new single state licensees
- Privacy of patients
While some states are hesitant to enact the eNLC, according to the NCSBN there are over 2 million nurses currently residing in eNLC states that have the opportunity to practice in other compact states. Nurses holding compact licenses are more desirable as they can take immediate job vacancies without waiting for licensure. The NCSBN also stresses that nurses with a compact license can
- Practice via telenursing in other eNLC states
- Respond to national disasters and staffing shortages in other eNLC states
If you reside in any of the states affected, you should stay updated on the latest developments as individual state boards begin the transition.
Here are a few helpful resources:
Official Website of the Nurse Licensure Compact
Twitter – @NurseCompact
Facebook – nurselicensurecompact
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By Kathleen Gaines BSN, RN, BA, CBC