A Travel Nurse’s Guide to Compact Licenses
*Updated: Feb 16, 2023
With staffing shortages and increased patient ratios, travel nurses are in higher demand now more than ever! Being a travel nurse is a great way to make good money, travel the country, and help hospitals and facilities care for their patients where it is needed most. One thing that makes travel nursing so much easier is having your multi-state compact license!
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement among the states who participate that allows nurses to have one special multi-state license, which offers the ability to practice in their home state as well as any other state that is part of the compact. This allows quicker access to fill staffing demands and hospitals/facilities that are in urgent need of patient care. With travel nursing demands growing in the United States, compact licenses help mobilize more nurses across the country faster and more efficiently.
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was developed in 1999 with the goal of addressing regional nursing shortages and expanding access to telemedicine. Under the agreement, nurses licensed in one compact state can work in other compact states without obtaining a new license. Travel nurses with compact licenses are often considered more desirable because they can fill immediate job vacancies without waiting for licensure.
What States are Part of the NLC?
It’s important for travel nurses to know the status of the states they plan to work in, whether they are part of the NLC, pending, or not. As of January 2023, there are 39 states in the NLC. You should also familiarize yourself with the reporting requirements and ensure they are compliant with any state-specific regulations.
Why do some states not participate in the NLC? Great question! Some states are hesitant to enact the NLC for various reasons, such as loss of state revenue from single state licenses, disciplinary action, and threats to public health and safety.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Virgin Islands
- West Virginia
What exactly is a Compact License?
A compact license is a type of nursing license that allows a nurse to practice in multiple states that have joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). In basic terms, it’s a multistate nursing license that simplifies the process for travel nurses as they take new nursing assignments from state to state. Nurses who have their compact licenses and reside in NLC states can cross state lines for travel assignments without having to go through the application process for licenses in multiple states or pay fees. This is especially beneficial for travel nurses since staffing demands fluctuate daily and assignments come and go so quickly.
To be eligible for a compact license, a nurse (RN, LPN, VN) must:
- Have a primary residence in a state that is already a part of the NLC
- Have a current license in their primary state that is in good standing
- Have no disciplinary actions against their nursing license
- Be able to pass a criminal background check
- Successfully have passed the NCLEX exam
- Complete an NCSBN-approved prelicensure education program
Travel nurses with a compact license can practice in any of the participating NLC states, as long as they are in compliance with the laws and regulations of that state. Additionally, they are subject to any possible disciplinary actions by the state board of nursing in the state which they are practicing, and they must report any disciplinary actions taken against them in any state.
Applying for a Compact License
If you already hold a state nursing license in your primary residing state, in most cases, applying for a compact state nursing license is an easy process. Filling out the application only takes a few minutes, then you just have to submit an additional background screening. Once you submit your application and it’s approved, you should receive your new compact license within thirty days.
If you don’t currently hold a state nursing license, the application process for a compact nursing license will be a little longer, because you need your state license first. You will need to apply for your state license and submit the required documentation to the nursing board. Usually, required documentation includes proof of passing your nursing boards, transcripts, and proof of graduation from a board-approved education program or international education program. After your application has been approved, you will need to pass a background check, submit fingerprints, and have photo proof of identification. Once your single-state nursing license is approved, then you can apply for compact licensure.
Renewal requirements are specific to the state that is your primary residence where you were issued your compact license, not the state where you practice at the time of renewal. Continuing education (CE) requirements are determined by each home state, so check their site for details. Additionally, it is up to the state to designate a set number of hours and courses. Each state also varies in the time frame for renewals and ranges anywhere from every other year to every five years.
Holding a multi-state license is beneficial for travel nurses since they often practice nursing in several different states. If you plan to work in another state NLC, then you don’t have to submit multiple applications, pay fees, or wait for state approval. Keeping track of multiple licenses, renewal dates, and requirements can be inconvenient. Instead, with a compact license, you only need to keep up with your primary state license and renewal requirements. Compact licenses save you time and money! Most importantly, it allows swiftness in filling staffing demands quickly so that patients receive the best care. At Marvel Medical Staffing we believe in rehumanizing the way healthcare staffing is done and offer a wide variety of specialties and locations for our traveling nurses, compact licensed or not.