There are many reasons RNs and allied pros become travel professionals. For many of them, travel is towards the top of that list. Working as a travel nurse or allied professional gives them adventure, a flexible schedule, deep job satisfaction, and the ability to live and work in fun and beautiful places. Drop a pin on a map and wherever it lands, chances are you can work there too!

One barrier to this is state licensing standards. Single-state licenses certified nurses according to the laws and requirements of that state. Holding a single-state license means you can only practice within that state. If you want to move out of state, or become a travel nurse, you’d need to test and apply for a license in the new state. 

Enter compact licensure. At the time of this writing, 34 states have passed some form of Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) legislation. This allows RNs, LVNs, and other medical professionals to carry a single license which is functional across all compact states. Needless to say, this makes travel nursing a whole lot easier! 

So let’s take a look at what  you need to know about compact licenses for travel nursing. 

What is a compact license?

The Nurse Licensure Compact is a multi-state cooperative that allows qualified nurses to practice in and between the 34 participating states in the US. It’s mission is to “advance public protection and access to care through the mutual recognition of one state-based license that is enforced locally and recognized nationally.” 

This is helpful for travel nurses as it means you can avoid the time, money, and training needed to recertify to work in a new state: you can just get the job and go!

The original states included in the NLC are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming.

In 2018, the NLC was replaced by the eNLC, or the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. The new policy included added protections for licensed nurses, and incorporated 4 new states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. As of 2020, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas and Louisiana have joined the list. 

Rhode Island has yet to adopt the updated eNLC and is no longer considered a compact state. 

States and territories with pending eNLC legislation include Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and the island of Guam. 

To see if your current license qualifies as a multi-state license under the eNLC, you can check your current certifications on nursys – this is the only national database recognized for license, practice, and discipline verification. Pulling your report is easy and free and will list every state you are able to practice in.

In order to practice in non-compact states, you will need to acquire a license unique to that particular state. Although the states not included in the eNLC may join sooner than we think!

The Facts: Everything Travel Nurses Need to Know About Compact Nursing License States

We’ve put together a list of the requirements, qualifications, and just things to keep in mind while considering travel nursing in a compact state.

  1. In order to qualify for a compact license, nurses must legally reside in a designated nursing compact state and meet the specific educational and professional conditions required by that state. 
  2. You can still apply for unique licenses in non-NLC states while holding a compact license.
  3. If you reside in a compact state but then permanently move to another compact state, you will need to reapply for a license by endorsement in that state and complete the Declaration of Primary State of Residence. This can be done before or after your move.
  4. Applying for a nursing license by endorsement is different from applying by examination. Once you have passed the NCLEX, the nursing exam which all nurses must take upon graduating from a nursing program, reapplication for a compact license may be done by endorsement. To apply this way, you must hold a valid nursing license and follow the endorsement application process within the new state. 
  5. A compact license not only applies to travel nursing, it also enables nurses practicing telehealth to help patients in any compact state.
  6. Nurses are now required to undergo a federal criminal background check in order to qualify for a multistate license. 
  7. Once your compact license is approved, your educational history, work history, specialization information, and other relevant professional facts will be stored in the nursys database
  8. If you move from a compact state to a non-compact state, you will need to apply for a license in the new state, as well as every other state you wish to practice in, including compact states. 
  9. One of the greatest benefits of holding a compact license is that it allows nurses to respond quickly to disasters or other health crises across the country. A mobilized and flexible nursing body is advantageous for everyone, nurses and patients alike.
  10. Living in a compact state does not guarantee that your nursing license is automatically a compact one. If you hold a single-state license in a compact state, you can apply for a compact license with your state’s Board of Nursing.. If you are unsure whether your license is multi-state, you can easily check at nursys.

Last Thoughts: Nursing Compact States

The eNLC continues to give flexibility and opportunity to nurses. It allows easier travel nursing, faster responses to medical dilemmas, and innovation in the form of telemedicine. Getting all 50 states to pass the eNLC will increase these opportunities and help create consistent care across the country.

If you reside in a non-compact state, consider working with the nurses and legislators in your state to pass the necessary legislation to join the compact states.

If you already live in a compact state but don’t have a multi-state license yet, accessing new opportunities is just a couple clicks away on your state’s Board of Nursing website.