What is the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC)?

healthcare worker in hospital next to a patient in a bed

The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to have one license to practice in multiple states. An interstate compact allows multiple states to join together and uniformly address common issues and establish guidelines that cross state boundaries to maintain regularity between governing agencies. 

A positive aspect of a compact is the solution for the question of how one can provide in various jurisdictions while practicing under the standards of their license. A drawback to a compact is the amount of time required for development and implementation, as various agencies must agree upon regulations that require giving up a certain amount of the previous independence under which they operated. (e.g. Participants in a compact are required to adhere to regulations that may supplant those of the participant’s own state requirements.)

Since 2000, nurses have been able to take advantage of the original NLC. Fifteen years later, updates were necessary and work on the enhanced NLC began. In January 2018, the enhanced NLC (eNLC) replaced the original NLC. The updated format removed barriers to joining the compact by including a criminal background check and standardizing licensure requirements. This compact increases access to care by allowing nurses to give in-person care across state lines as well as establishing the provision of telehealth services. By clearly defining the terms, the updated NLC maintains the safety and protection for the public by holding NLC nurses to a uniform standard.

As of November 2019, thirty-four of the 50 United States have enacted the NLC, and Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania have pending implementation. A complete list of states which have enacted the NLC can be found here. States which have NOT enacted the NLC include: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Additionally, none of the US territories have pending NLC legislation. 

The NLC provides many advantages to licensed nurses. It allows them to practice in multiple states, and expand their network by working across NLC member state lines without applying for or transferring their license, or worrying about renewals and the accompanying fees needed for licensure in a variety of states. In addition, by practicing across state lines, the state nursing boards are coordinating with each other and expanding the mobility for nurses in our nation’s healthcare system.

 Nurses who wish to apply for the NLC must meet the following requirements:

  • Reside in an NLC state, and declare an NLC state as primary residence.
  • Be an actively licensed registered nurse (RN), licensed professional nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). APRN’s are NOT eligible for the NLC.
  • Meet requirements for licensure in home state. When practicing in any state, the standards of that state where the patient or practice is located are mandatory.

There is not one application for the NLC, and there is no set fee. Rather, nurses seeking the multistate license application can find it on their state’s Board of Nursing website. Each state who participates in the NLC will have a page designated for the NLC, and can be found by searching for “[select your home state] board or nursing nlc”.  Frequently asked questions for the NLC can be found at https://www.ncsbn.org/nlc-faqs.htm

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