Compact State License Changes: What Travel Nurses Need to Know

Nov 8, 2017

This post was originally published on Nov. 8, 2017. It has been updated (Jan. 23, 2018) to reflect the signing of Colorado SB 18-027 and New Mexico Senate Bill 1 into law, enacting Colorado and New Mexico as the newest eNLC member states.

The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) is here and, as a travel nurse, you need to understand how your license is affected. The following is a comprehensive guide from Medical Staffing Options that explains everything you need to know about the impact the newly-implemented eNLC may have on your nursing career.

What was the Original Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)?

If you are a travel nurse, you likely already know something about the original Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC. The NLC was a system that made it easier for many licensed nurses to practice in states outside of their home state (where they had an established permanent residence). If a nurse had an NLC multi-state license, he or she could work in any of the 25 compact states that participated in the original NLC system.

The NLC multi-state license made traveling very convenient for many nurses who wished to practice in more than one state—for nurses living in an original compact state, they were free to practice in any participating NLC state without penalty or additional licensure. If a nurse declared a primary residence in one of the 25 compact states, his or her nursing license automatically functioned as a multi-state license.

On the other hand, a nurse whose primary residence was not in an original compact state was not eligible to obtain a multi-state NLC license. In other words, a nurse who lived in (and was licensed in) a non-compact state, but who wanted to work in a compact state, needed to obtain a license for that second state. Once obtained, however, the license only applied to that single state—not the other 24 compact states—because his or her primary residence was still in a non-compact state.

The Big Change: Moving from NLC to eNLC

In 2014, U.S. Boards of Nursing executive officers made the decision to update and enhance the NLC. The newly-enhanced compact, or eNLC, was approved by the Boards of Nursing in May 2015 as a “licensing model of the future” to replace the original NLC and add extra protections.

The main reason for the transition from the original NLC to the eNLC is to ensure that the same standards are upheld across all compact states. As part of the new guidelines, the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact requires that nurses achieve and comply with 11 uniform licensure requirements, outlined below

National Council of State Boards of Nursing Uniform Requirements for eNLC Licensure

  • Meets the requirements for licensure in the home state (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 examination (applies to graduates of an international education program not taught in 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 (i.e., without active discipline)
  • 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 (determined on a case-by-case basis)
  • 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

eNLC Effective Date and Implementation Date

There is some confusion about when the eNLC took effect. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) uses two different terms when describing the process: “effective date” and “implementation date.” The effective date (July 20, 2017) was less of a date and more of a milestone; this was the day in which 26 states enacted the new eNLC regulations, meaning that any nurse applying for a compact license in those states needed to meet the 11 requirements outlined above (which is still the case).

The more important date for nurses was the implementation date, Jan. 18, 2018. The implementation date was the day on which nurses with eNLC licenses could begin to practice in any of the now 29 eNLC member states. This is of major significance for nurses who live in states that were not compact states under the original NLC system. On Jan. 19, nurses in those new states (Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wyoming) could begin practicing in any eNLC state.

eNLC Compact State License Map

For Nurses in Former NLC States that are Now eNLC States

Nurses in eNLC states who already had an original NLC multi-state license prior to the effective date (July 20, 2017) have been “grandfathered” into the eNLC program. They do not need to meet the enhanced requirements listed above. They are now able to practice in any of the eNLC states. The only original NLC state in which they are not allowed to practice in without additional licensure is Rhode Island, which has not yet enacted eNLC legislation (as of Jan. 23, 2018).

For Nurses in an eNLC State that was Not Part of the Original NLC

Nurses issued a multi-state eNLC license after July 20, 2017, are required to meet the 11 eNLC multi-state license requirements listed above. Since Jan. 19, 2018, they can practice in any of the participating eNLC states.

For Nurses in Rhode Island

This is where the change gets a bit tricky. States must individually pass the new eNLC legislation. Nearly all states in the original compact have done this, with the exception of Rhode Island.

Nurses in Rhode Island are currently unable to practice in eNLC compact states without obtaining additional licensure, greatly limiting their job opportunities. Nurses with eNLC multi-state licenses also cannot practice in Rhode Island without obtaining additional licensure.

Know Which States are Non-Compact and which are eNLC

The good news is that most states—including original compact states and even non-compact states—are interested in participating in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. While this process may take time, it means that an increasing number of nurses will have the flexibility to practice in a majority of U.S. states without having to obtain additional licensure.

You can find out if your state is a non-compact state, part of the original NLC system, or has adopted the new eNLC regulations by using the NCSBN map.

If you still have questions about the eNLC, you can use the NurSys tool or speak with the team at Medical Staffing Options. You can also keep up to date with any changes in legislation by signing up for email notifications from the NCSBN.

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