There exists in the nursing field a vitally important criterion that drives all your actions and decisions: your license to practice. This is the nagging thought in the back of your mind that never goes away, especially when in questionable situations, such as shoddy practices by coworkers or when getting behind the wheel after having a drink with dinner. This is the be-all/end-all of everything for which you have worked so hard and paid so much money to achieve. It’s important to you, without question.
It’s important to us too here at TRS Healthcare, as we staff travel nurses across the United States. Of course, a nurse must have an active license in general but we also must verify that our nurses have a valid license to practice in the state to which they are going for an assignment. In a perfect world, just being qualified to be a nurse would be universally accepted across all state lines but of course, this is not a perfect world. Luckily, there exists something called the NLC, otherwise known as the Nurse Licensure Compact.
The NLC is an agreement among 26 states that being qualified in one state will view your license as recognized by another state, allowing you to practice there without having to get an additional license. The compact license is a true blessing for the travel nurse as it dramatically streamlines the credentialing process to work an assignment in a differing state. What would normally take an additional 4-6 weeks and well over $100 a pop, takes zero time and zero expense to cross state lines. The 25 states that are currently members of this compact agreement are: Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire.
What’s changing and what’s most important for you to know right now, is that there is rapidly approaching implementation of something called the eNLC, or the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. This will change the states that will be participating in the compact licensure agreement and may affect you. The good news is that by being aware of this now and taking action now (if needed), you will be able to continue doing what you were called to do without disruption.
According to the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) website, the movement toward the eNLC began in 2014 and was approved a year later. So far, 26 states have signed on to the new eNLC but they are different states than the previous agreement.
As of today, the list of states that have already agreed to transition from the NLC to the eNLC include: Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Maine and New Hampshire. New member states that have agreed to the eNLC are: Wyoming, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Previous members who have not yet agreed are Colorado and Rhode Island. There appears to be no word yet on whether these states will agree to the new eNLC so if any of these are your home state for licensure, you need to keep reading.
Previous NLC member states that have legislation pending to join the eNLC are Wisconsin and New Mexico. NLC Non-member states that are considering legislation to join the eNLC are Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
According to the NCSBN, despite overwhelming support for the eNLC among nurses, some of the delays or resistance in individual states is due to Union concerns.
The implementation date for the eNLC is January, 19, 2018 so that means that starting on that day, member states will begin issuing compact licenses and when active compact licenses will be eligible to practice in the eNLC states.
So, for example, if you have an active Oklahoma state license as your primary license, you do not have current compact status so you could not practice across the border in Arkansas without getting an Arkansas license. In January, you would have to apply to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing for your license to have compact status. After being granted, you could practice in any state in the eNLC.
As another example, if you have an active, compact Arkansas state license as your primary license, you would need to acquire an Oklahoma license to practice in that state right now. As of January, your Arkansas license would be accepted in Oklahoma, as they would be a new member state of the eNLC.
Make sense so far?
If your home state of licensure was previously a member of the NLC but has not joined the eNLC in January, you will be grandfathered in until one of 2 things happens: either your state withdraws from the original NLC or if the NLC is officially disbanded. This would happen only if there are less than 2 member states in the NLC. Otherwise, the original NLC continues.
The most significant thing is that as a state joins the eNLC they officially are leaving the NLC. This means that states who are members of the NLC that have not signed on to the eNLC, would no longer share compact status with states no longer in the NLC.
To put it simply, if your original compact state license was issued in Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico or Rhode Island, you would only have compact status among those states and would no longer be able to work in a state that was a previous member of the NCL without getting a license there.
If your compact home state of licensure is going from the NLC to the eNLC, you will have compact status among all other eNLC states starting in January. If your state was not a member of the NLC but is a member of the eNLC, you will have to contact your state board to gain compact status among the other eNLC member states to travel there unhindered.
If you’re a travel nurse and plan on being on a contract on January 19, 2018, this is where things get stickier. From all accounts, it would seem you will possibly be required to get an additional license under the following circumstances:
- If you are utilizing a compact license and the state in which you are working on assignment has either not joined the eNLC or if legislation is still pending there
- If your home state, whose compact license you are utilizing for an assignment, does not join the eNLC or if legislation is pending there.
There are some specific examples where this could be different but this may be a case where it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, you can claim licensure fees as a deduction on your taxes or, if you work for TRS Healthcare, we will reimburse you for taking the wise precautionary step of getting a license for the state in which your contract takes place.
I would also encourage you to reach out to the NCSBN yourself when you know what your travel situation will look like in the new year. Remember, it is your responsibility to have a usable license on assignment but through information like this, we are certainly happy to assist you.
I have reached out to Jim Puente of the NCSBN, who I am told handles questions specifically about the forthcoming changes as part of the move to the eNLC. At the time of this writing, he has not yet responded to inquiries.
Here is some information to assist you in your search for answers:
Contact information for the NCSBN can be found here. The Frequently Asked Questions page about the eNLC is here and if you’re curious about the requirements for a compact license under the eNLC guidelines, you can read more here.
And lastly, and as always, TRS Healthcare puts nurse service as our top priority. If we can help you, please don’t hesitate to call us any time at 888-987-8233.