For travel nurses, the Compact Licensure agreement is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Once you’re licensed in one state, you have a whole selection of over 30 states that you can work in, without the stress of getting additional licenses for each one. However, much like a buffet, we’re always looking for what’s next rather than being satisfied with what’s in front of us. Here’s a look at which states may be the next to join the NLC (Nurse Licensure Compact) spread.
Washington has NLC legislation working through its Senate, and legislation that didn’t make it out of committee hearings in its House of Representatives. If Washington passes its Nurse Licensure Compact legislation, it would be the first state on the west coast to do so. Supporters of the compact license point out that it would dramatically improve the lives of nurses who are military spouses, as Washington has the second-highest military population of all remaining states that have not joined the NLC. However, a bill introduced in the Senate last year failed to pass to committee, even with overwhelming public support, and although a new bill was introduced earlier this month, don’t bet on Washington joining the NLC until it can be sorted out with the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA). The WSNA publicly opposed the bill and called it a “bad option for Washington” due to concerns about complicated regulatory mechanisms and declining revenue due to the elimination of licensing fees.
New Jersey’s governor signed NLC legislation into law in July of 2019, allowing them to practice New Jersey became the 34th NLC state last summer, but the implementation date has not yet been determined. Looks like travel nurses will be able to travel freely to the Garden State with a compact license soon!
A bill was filed in Massachusetts’s House of Representatives last October to adopt the NLC. Much like Washington, Massachusetts would be (one of) the first states in its region to adopt NLC legislation. The legislator that introduced the bill cited telehealth (which requires a license for whichever state the patient the nurse is treating is residing in, regardless of if the nurse is physically present in that state), managed care, and a mobile population as reasons to adopt the NLC. However, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has opposed the bill, claiming it would weaken nursing standards and be abused by hospitals to outsource nursing by using technology and cheaper labor in other states.
Vermont has introduced a senate bill that, if passed, would adopt the NLC across the state. Unlike states like Washington and Massachusetts, the bill has support from the state’s Nurses Association, which is rare. A report conducted by the Office of Professional Regulation estimated that NLC implementation would cost the state 25% of its board of nursing budget. However, this could entice more young/new nurses to come to Vermont, as they wouldn’t be hit as hard by the up-front licensing costs. It would also make Vermont a more popular destination for nurses in the New England area, where many nurses work in surrounding states due to higher pay and more nurse-friendly labor laws.
A house bill that would authorize Pennsylvania to join the NLC was introduced to the House of Representatives last September by a state representative who is a former nurse. There is also a bill in the Senate, and both have advanced to committees, with no substantive updates to share yet.
Michigan’s NLC legislation has moved out of committee and into the House Ways and Means Committee, and with favorable review will then head to the floor of Michigan’s House of Representatives. Since most of these bills don’t get out of their initial committee hearings, the likelihood of Michigan becoming a part of the NLC seems to be quite high! Check back in later in the year to find out how the bill is doing, and if it will be voted on by the Michigan legislature.
Illinois has been working on implementing NLC legislation for almost a decade. The latest legislation drafted to adopt the NLC, introduced in January of 2017, ended with a Session Sine Die in January of 2019. This could mean that the bill will not move forward, making it unlikely that Illinois will become a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. Four new bills for the NLC have been introduced this year, but there is a short window of time to get them passed.
Alaska has introduced bills to both its House of Representatives and Senate for the state to adopt the NLC. These bills have both been sent to committee, but neither has been scheduled for a public hearing yet. There is hope that Alaska could become a compact state soon, and open its doors to travel nurses who want to travel to the farthest and wildest corners of the U.S.
Rhode Island is an interesting case. The state was a part of the original NLC, but when the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact was introduced, Rhode Island did not join. This meant that nurses whose Rhode Island licenses previously allowed them to practice in every other compact state were suddenly required to acquire a new nursing license for states they wanted to travel to and practice in. Rhode Island introduced legislation to join the eNLC, but the hearing committee recommended that the measure be held for further study. It’s unclear whether Rhode Island will rejoin the other 34 states that make up the new eNLC.
However, a new bill was introduced in January of 2020 that would adopt the enhanced NLC, but has not gone to committee for review yet.
Perhaps the most interesting, and exciting for travel nurses filled with wanderlust, state that could be enacting legislation for the NLC isn’t actually a state at all. Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, has drafted legislation that would allow nurses with compact licenses to work in the territory without obtaining an additional license.
Becoming a part of the NLC would mean that Guam would have access to the over 2 million nurses who already have a compact license, and would make telenursing and online nursing much more viable in this remote territory since nurses need a license in the state or territory where their patient is located to treat them electronically.
This bill has been sent to committee, but as of right now has no public hearing date scheduled.
These are the states that we see as the most likely to adopt the NLC in the next year or two. But you never know – the next state to join the compact agreement might not be on this list! If you want to stay up to date on travel nursing news, subscribe to our blog. We’ll send the latest developments straight to your inbox, as well as tips on how to make the most of your travel nursing lifestyle!