Why are Compact Nursing Licenses so important for Travel Nurses? Becoming a Nurse means there’s a lot of little details you need to keep track of at all times: certification details, patient stats, anatomical information, pharmaceuticals — the list goes on and on. Tack a career in travel healthcare on top of standard nursing duties, and there’s even more not-so-trivial trivia to think about.

Possibly the most important item you need to keep your eye on as a Nurse is your license. Both travel and permanent Nurses must maintain up-to-date licensure and complete continuing education (CEUs) hours to renew effectively. Different states have their own sets of criteria which define how a Nurse can earn their license. For Travel Nurses practicing in multiple states, this can get complicated. 

At first, Travel Nurses needed to maintain individual licenses in all states they wanted to practice. Individual licensure was, of course, time-consuming and very labor-intensive. Released in 1999, the Nursing License Compact (NLC) eliminated these restrictions. This action set multi-state standard criteria allowing nurses to maintain one license, which enabled them to practice in any states participating in the NLC. 

Several states still hold criteria outside the NLC standard. Nevertheless, the advent of the compact license has made finding interstate work as a Travel Nurse a whole lot simpler. In this article, we’ll talk more about what having a compact license means, as well as which states are a part of the NLC. 

What are Compact Nursing Licenses?

As we briefly mentioned in the introduction, a compact nursing license allows Medical Professionals to provide care in any U.S. State or territory adopted by the NLC. The compact license is a single license updated according to a standardized set of criteria enabling practice in any of the 38 jurisdictions currently participating in the NLC. Thus, if a Nurse maintains a compact license, they will not need to acquire an additional license unless they plan to work in a state or territory which falls outside of the NLC. 

The NLC is advantageous for member states in that it provides greater flexibility and mobility to crucial medical workers. Meaning Nurses with compact licenses can come from all over the country to mitigate unsafe nurse-patient ratios and provide critical care in an emergency. 

And the NLC is also great for Travel Nurses because it gives you greater freedom and ease when it comes to choosing where you want to go on your next assignment. 

Rules for Compact Licensing

Before you rush off to apply for your compact license, take a look at some of these rules and regulations put forth by the NLC to decide whether a compact license is suitable for you. To qualify for a compact license, your primary state of residence must be a compact state. If you live outside of a compact state, you will need to maintain a single-state license for each locale in which you want to work. 

For example, if you live in Alaska, you will need to maintain an A.K. nursing license. If you want to work in Arizona, a compact state, you will need to apply for an additional single-state license for AZ. You need to maintain a license in your home state to continue using your compact license in other non-residence states. If you lose your home state licensure or let it lapse, you will no longer be able to use your compact license and may need to get a single-state license in whatever state you happen to be practicing in. 

For example, if you maintain a home-state license in Texas but work in Tennessee, you must keep your TX license to continue practicing in T.N. 

  1. To maintain a compact license, your license must be unrestricted and unencumbered. 

For example, imagine you received disciplinary restrictions to your ability to practice, a DUI charge, or other punitive legal action. In this case, your license will be “encumbered,” and you will either lose your compact license or will not be able to receive one.

Compact Nursing Licenses, by State

The list of states participating in the NLC keeps getting longer every year! Currently, there are 37 states with comprehensive compact benefits and one state and one U.S. territory with partial privileges. Here is a list of all current compact states, as well as those with pending legislation. 

Complete compact states:

New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
States fully participating in the NLC

States and territories with partial implementation:

New JerseyGuam
States partially implemented within the NLC

States with pending legislation:

Rhode Island
States with pending legislation for the NLC

Travel Nurses living in states with pending legislation may need to wait until 2023 to apply for their compact license. After the NLC is enacted, they can practice freely in any of the above locations.

Medely and Compact Nursing Licenses

Medely works with Nurses to find the travel and per diem positions that suit their current lifestyle – whatever license you have. If you’re a Healthcare Professional with a compact license, our staff will work with you to find the perfect position in a state you’d love to see. 

To learn even more about compact licenses, visit our other resource: Nursing Compact States.