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What Travel Nurses Need to Know About the Compact Nursing License

Travel nurses have the exciting opportunity to earn more money while seeing the country. Some of the best places for travel nursing combine world-class medical facilities with amazing attractions. In other words, you can boost your salary and career trajectory while experiencing places you might already want to visit on vacation. The logistics might be a little confusing, though. How can you travel across the country if you do not have licenses in other states? The compact nursing license, also known as a multistate license, offers a simple solution.

About the Compact Nursing License

A compact nursing license enables registered nurses and licensed practice nurses to work in states other than their home state, without the need to obtain additional nursing licenses. The license is granted under the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Currently, 31 states are enacting the NLC, according to the NCSBN. Three states are awaiting legislation (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Michigan), while three more are awaiting implementation (New Jersey, Indiana, and Alabama), according to the NCSBN map. 

Why Do Nurses Need a Compact Nursing License?

One of the most natural applications of the compact nursing license is for travel nurses. Having a multistate license makes it easy to take assignments in states that are a part of the NLC. You don’t have to worry about delays in starting an assignment due to licensing issues. It also benefits other nurses, according to the NCSBN

  • Nurses living and working in different states: Some nurses may live close to a state border. If their home state and the state where they work are in the NLC, then they can easily work without having more than one license.
  • Nurses who telecommute: A compact nursing license enables nurses in telehealth to practice in several other states without obtaining additional nursing licenses.
  • Other examples: “In the event of a disaster, nurses from multiple states can easily respond to supply vital services,” the NCSBN explained. “Additionally, almost every nurse, including primary care nurses, case managers, transport nurses, school and hospice nurses, among many others, needs to routinely cross state boundaries to provide the public with access to nursing services, and a multistate license facilitates this process.”

Nursing Compact States Map

Take a look at the states that are part of the NLC. Source: NCSBN

How Do I Apply for a Compact State Nursing License?

You can only obtain a compact nursing license if your home state is part of the NLC.

If your home state is part of the NLC and you have a license from that state, you should already have a multistate license. That assumes you’re currently in good standing, however. You can check if you have a single state or multistate license for free at Nursys.

Travel Nursing Guide

Take a free look at an exciting career opportunity with Concordia, St Paul’s guide, Roadmap to Travel Nursing. This guide will help you learn more about the ability to earn above-average pay while exploring new places as a nurse, and it features interviews with former and current travel nurses.

Access the Guide

What Should I Do If My State Is Not in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)?

If your state is not  in the NLC, you are unable to obtain a compact nursing license, unless you move. You can still apply for a license in a compact state, but it would just be for that state. There is no limit to the number of single-state licenses you can have.

If you move from a noncompact state to a compact state, then you could receive a multistate license if you meet residency and eligibility requirements. That process would involve changing the state in which you declare your primary residence. Legal documents like your driver’s license, voter’s card, and federal income tax return will help dictate your primary state of residence.

Being unable to obtain a compact nursing license does not mean you cannot have a successful career in travel nursing. Many travel nurses live and work in noncompact states without issues obtaining state licenses. Travel nursing agencies are used to working with candidates or assignments outside the NLC.

Speak to your travel nursing agency about concerns you may have. The company will be able to help you obtain the nursing license that you need for an assignment, and they can help to expedite the application process. Your agency will also be aware of a particular state’s timeline for processing a nursing license.

Getting Started in Travel Nursing

Travel nursing can be a great way to learn new skills and make more money while experiencing new, exciting places. If you would like to become a travel nurse, you should know that most hospitals will not consider you without a bachelor’s degree. Thankfully, with an online RN to BSN, you can get the credential you need in a convenient learning environment. Concordia St. Paul’s program is offered 100 percent online with six starts per year, providing you with flexibility for meeting your career and educational goals. Experience an innovative curriculum that is responsive, relevant, and real to your nursing practice.

If you would like to pursue informal and formal leadership roles in a variety of health care settings, an online Master of Science in Nursing from Concordia University, St. Paul can help you reach your goals. In a flexible format, you will gain the knowledge and experience to improve health outcomes. After completing hands-on practicums through learning simulations, in the workplace, and with your local community, you will be able to lead innovative teams in care coordination, quality improvement, and population health.