Current Nursing Compact States | Updated July 2019
By Kathleen Gaines BSN, RN, BA, CBC
Editor’s Note: Louisiana and Kansas have joined the eNLC as of July 1st. Indiana will join in January 2020 and Alabama is still waiting for their implementation date. Washington, Vermont, Michigan, and Illinois each had bills denied to join the eNLC with no plans to reintroduce legislation. New Jersey and Pennsylvania currently have legislation pending to join the eNLC.
The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement between states that allows nurses to hold one valid nursing license that works in numerous states.
Over the years, the compact license, now referred to as the eNLC (Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact), has evolved to include 31 states and an additional 4 are currently pending legislation. Indiana will join the eNLC in January 2020 and Alabama is waiting for their inclusion date. The inclusion of additional states into the eNLC makes it easier for travel nurses when applying for positions and nurses living near a state border.
In this article
- How do multi-state licenses work?
- Current eNLC states
- eNLC states with pending legislation
- States not included in the eNLC
- Advantages of a compact state license
- How do you apply for a compact state license?
Current eNLC Nursing Compact States and Status
What is a Compact State?
Originally developed and implemented in 2000, the compact nursing license was developed to assist nurses in reducing the cost and time to obtain licensure. During a time of severe nursing shortage, twenty states, with assistance from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), created a multi-state license. This license would allow nurses to have one license that worked for multiple states.
This license was seen as ideal for travel nurses and those that worked in several neighboring states. Nurses could move more freely from job to job.
On January 19, 2018 the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) was implemented. Nurses that held licenses in the states within the eNLC were issued new multi-state licenses immediately and could practice without delay.
Multi-state licenses are simple and easy to use but do hold one caveat. In order to apply for the compact license, the applicant MUST have permanent residence in one of the current eNLC states. Unfortunately, travel nurses that do not hold residency in one of the below states will still need to apply for individual state nursing licenses. Information regarding each state’s individual license can be found on their state’s webpage.
Twenty-four of the original NLC states have enacted the eNLC or currently have pending legislation. Two states, Kansas and Louisiana, will join the eNLC on July 1, 2019. Nurses in these states will be contacted by their respective state board of nursing regarding the new compact license.
Here’s a comprehensive listing of all states currently impacted by multi-state compact licensing.
- Alabama (starting date TBD)
- Indiana (starting January 1, 2020)
- Louisiana (registered nurses and practical nurses)
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia (registered nurses and practical nurses)
- District of Columbia
- New York
- Rhode Island (part of original NLC)
- US Virgin Islands
July 2019 Update: Four Large States Voted Down Legislation to Join eNLC
Recently, Washington, Vermont, Michigan, and Illinois all had bills denied at the state government level to join the eNLC. Despite an ongoing nursing shortage and strong public support (especially among military spouses), Washington’s bill was unable to pass beyond the committee. The Washington State Nurses Association strongly opposes joining the eNLC citing quality of care and patient safety issues, which was a large influence in the decision to deny the bill.
Vermont saw the overall benefits to joining the eNLC, in particular for cases of natural disasters or nursing shortages. Ultimately, though state representatives determined it would have too large of a financial impact on the state. Costs would increase at the administration level, in the adaption of new licensing software, annual membership fees to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, and the loss of revenue in single-state licenses.
The Michigan and Illinois bills have stalled at the committee level. Unfortunately, information regarding why the bills have been indefinitely tabled is unclear and no further legislation is pending.
A Quick Note: States that are Popular Travel Nurse Destinations
Currently, Alaska and California are not part of the eNLC nor do they have legislation pending. While Hawaii is not part of the eNLC and there is no legislation pending, the first steps are being taken to start the process. As hot spots for travel nurses, single-state licenses are required. For this reason, travel nurses interested in working in these states should apply well in advance while working in current compact nursing states. Registered Nurses can be licensed in numerous states at the same time.
In January 2019, a bill was introduced in Hawaii to establish a study that would identify potential problems if Hawaii were to join the eNLC. In February, this was approved and currently remains under final review in order to move forward. There has not been any further traction on this, but travel nurses are very interested, as this will make it easier to work as a travel nurse. It would also incentivize Hawaiian nurses to work as travel nurses since it would open the door to additional states.
Living in a Compact State
Nurses sitting for their NCLEX in a compact state will be asked for their permanent residence address. Once this is verified, applicants will automatically be enrolled in the eNLC. The requirements for licensure are similar to those for single-state.
Nurses in states that currently are pending legislation do not have to do anything. Once the legislation has passed, individuals will be contacted by their state board indicating what paperwork needs to be completed in order to transition to the new license. Again, it’s important to note that nurses must be in good standing with their state board of nursing before they will be issued the enhanced compact nursing license.
Moving from a Compact State to a Compact State
Moving between compact states has never been easier. Nurses can stop working at a job in Arizona on a Friday and start working in Texas on a Monday. Travel nurses do not have to fill out any additional paperwork and the license is immediately effective.
If a nurse plans on changing their permanent residence to a different compact state than the original issuer of the license, nurses should apply for a change of address on the state’s board nursing website. This can be important during the renewal process. While the nursing compact license is one renewal form, the number and type of continuing education hours is dependent on the state that originally issued the license.
Multi-state licenses are particularly great for travel nurses because it prevents unwanted downtime between assignments. It also makes them highly coveted by hospitals and agencies because they will not have to wait for licensure and can be immediately available. There is an eNLC database which hospitals and agencies can access to see if a nurse holds a compact license. This could be the difference in obtaining a quicker placement.
Also, there are less license fees! With the implementation of the compact license there is one fee that covers all of the states included in the license.
To apply for a compact state license, an applicant must ensure they meet the following requirements:
- Meets the requirements for licensure in their state of residency
- Has graduated from a board-approved education program OR has graduated from an international education program (approved by the authorized accrediting body in the applicable country and verified by an independent credentials review agency)
- Has passed an English proficiency exam (applies to graduates of an international education program not taught English or if English is not the individual’s native language)
- Has passed an NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN Examination or predecessor exam
- Is eligible for or holds an active, unencumbered license
- Has submitted to state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks
- Has no state or federal felony convictions
- Has no misdemeanor convictions related to the practice of nursing
- Is not currently a participant in an alternative program
- Is required to self-disclose current participation in an alternative program
- Has a valid United States Social Security number
Once it is determined that the requirements are met, apply on the state boards’ webpage. For states included in the eNLC there will be two options for licensure. One will be for single state and the other will be for the eNLC.
Since the implementation of the eNLC, new states have been added regularly. The hopes of the NCSBN is that all fifty states will become a part of the eNLC making the process more efficient for both nurses and employers.
Kathleen is currently a Pediatric ICU nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Shriners Hospital for Children-Philadelphia. As a nurse for 10 years specializing in ICU care, she has an extensive ICU background having worked in the CICU and NICU at several major children’s hospitals in the Philadelphia region. Nursing is a second career after working as a journalist for many years and becoming nationally published. She is Trauma certified and a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor. Kathleen lives with her husband and two German Shepherds, and is enrolled in the MSN-Education program at Loyola University of New Orleans.