Compact State Guide for Travel Nurses

Advice for healthcare travelers, Job Seeker Featured

Brunette woman points at a map on a table full of maps
Get out the map! Read on to learn the ins and outs of the Nurse Licensure Compact and how it can benefit you as a travel nurse.

By Kerrey Brennan and Sarah Wengert

As a travel nurse, you can be placed in assignments all over the nation, which means you’ll often be crossing state lines! Prior to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), travelers often had to acquire a lot of different licenses on a state-by-state basis in order to be able to practice in each state where they took a new assignment. While you may still need to get a specific state license in some states, the NLC is an amazing way to avoid that in the majority of states by getting your compact license.

As you may already know, the NLC is an agreement that allows nurses to practice reciprocally across state lines. It serves to increase access to care while also maintaining public health protection at the state level. The most recent major changes to compact state statuses occurred on January 19, 2018, when the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact went live. While a bundle of state-level updates were introduced then, the premise remains the same: If you are a licensed nurse in a member state (known as a compact state), you are eligible to get your compact license, making you licensed to practice in any of the other states that are also members.

Minor changes and updates to the Nurse Licensure Compact are typical throughout each year, so it can be a dynamic situation, but let’s explore some current and common compact info! 

Which States are Compact States for Nursing?

As of March 2020, there were 34 compact member states. All of these states share the same nursing requirements and recognize an NLC license:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana (implementation on July 1, 2020)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey (partial implementation)
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

There are also some states that will join the compact pending NLC legislation, including California, Minnesota, Alaska, and several others. For an always-current list of compact states, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website is an amazing resource. In fact, if you’re serious about travel nursing far and wide, I’d suggest you bookmark that bad boy!

Four Important Things About Your NLC License

Travel nursing can take you all over the country, which can lead to big changes in your living arrangements — for example, say you fall in love with a new city while on assignment and decide to move your permanent address there. Here are a few quick facts to remember about the Nurse Licensure Compact: 

  • You must be a primary resident of a current compact state in order to obtain an NLC license.
  • If you move and set up residency in a different compact state, you are required to obtain compact licensure in your new state.
  • In the same vein, if you acquire your license in a compact state but you are not a resident, you are not mutually recognized by the other NLC states.
  • The Nurse Licensure Compact includes RNs, LPNs, and LVNs, but not advanced practice nurses.

Updated Nurse Licensure Compact Info for the COVID-19 Era

Now, that’s our quick guide to compact states for travel nurses, but as with most things these days, COVID-19 may cause changes in the “normal” NLC process.

If anything, temporary changes due to COVID-19 and the corresponding need to ramp up staffing in certain specialties and regions may mean more flexibility in where you can work via means like emergency licensing waivers, expedited licensing protocol, and temporary licenses. But, changes to nurse licensing protocol and the NLC are even more dynamic and ever-evolving right now, so here are some handy ways to keep yourself in the know on nurse licensing and the NLC as the COVID-19 pandemic continues:

  • The NCSBN, as always, is a great resource here. They’ve established a COVID-19 news page, kind of a central command for related info that includes a bundle of helpful resources for nurses. You can also visit this regularly updated COVID-19 state response PDF, where you can search info state-by-state.  
  • This is also a great time to lean on your recruiter for current, relevant info. At Medical Solutions, we support your recruiter in this area with a large, in-house clinical team and licensure specialists. Our entire team has been receiving daily (sometimes even multiple times a day!) updates on licensing requirements and changes in the era of COVID-19. Please contact your recruiter with any licensing or NLC questions — you can be confident that they have access to the most up-to-date info!
  • Subscribe or continue to follow the Medical Solutions blog for updates on this topic and other major COVID-19 developments, wellness resources for our travelers, and tons more great content for travelers that has nothing to do with the pandemic — like becoming a travel nurse to begin with! 

We hope this quick compact state guide for travel nurses is helpful on your journey! As always, please contact your recruiter or our team with any questions, or, feel free to shout ’em out in the comments. Ready for your next adventure? Explore current job opportunities now

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