How the Nurse Licensure Compact Helps in a Pandemic

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

During any disaster or pandemic, the center or hot spots will focus the need for nurses and other health care workers and first responders. In the current COVID19 pandemic, New York became an epicenter quickly and nurses were called to come and assist. Over the past 3 months, other hot spots have developed, and nurses have been deployed where needed. This will continue until the pandemic is either managed or eradicated. Without some sort of multistate licensure this would be impossible. In the late 1990’s the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) began to investigate how to form a Nurse Licensure Compact, and by 2004, 20 states had passed legislation to join the NLC. Today, 34 states have enacted the NLC and 32 have implemented it; 2 are in the process of implementation. Several other states are pending state legislation. New Jersey has recently taken action to partially implement it by allowing nurses with unencumbered multistate licenses to practice in New Jersey during the COVID19 pandemic. 

States and Territories such as California, Alaska, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Guam are pending state or territory legislation to join the NLC. Governors in non-compact states have issued emergency declarations including executive orders or started emergency legislation to allow for nurses with unencumbered multistate licenses to come and practice in their state during the pandemic. Nurses are encouraged to stand up and support legislation to ease access to more nurses in an emergency. Contacting legislators to support joining the NLC is an important step. Another important step is encouraging Disaster planning in the workplace and in the state. As we have seen recently, this an absolute necessity to meet the needs of the public and to decrease the expanse of the impact and burden on nurses and other health care workers. Continuing education for nurses presents a prime opportunity to advance practice and to prepare for situations such as the current pandemic. 

The Enhanced NLC

The Nurse Licensure Compact become the Enhanced NLC (eNLC) when the rule was enacted on July 17, 2017. It was initially implemented on January 19, 2018 by 29 states. Rhode Island had been an NLC member but did not implement the eNLC at that time and is now pending legislation to do so. The eNLC provides nurses an opportunity to become licensed to practice in multiple states or territories that belong to the NLC. With a growing number of participating states, this opens opportunities for nurses to be licensed in their home state of residency and to practice nursing in many other states. This is necessary for those who wish to become travel nurses as well as those who live in border towns and wish to work in a neighboring state. In addition to physically practicing, the compact license also allows for telehealth positions and teaching via distance learning in eNLC states.

The nurse must first meet requirements to become licensed or to renew their license in the state of primary residency. To establish and maintain proof of residency, the nurse must provide evidence such as a driver’s license in that state, voter registration, and/or payment of State and Federal taxes using that place of residency. Simply owning property in another state is not proof of residency in any state. Residency can become inadvertently changed if the nurse applies for a driver’s license in another state while living and working in that state temporarily. This can happen if for example, the nurse’s driver’s license requires renewal in the state of residency while s/he is on assignment in another state and instead of returning home to renew, the nurse applies for a driver’s license in the state where s/he is working. It’s important to keep track of these items and renew that license early to maintain official residency. If this happens, the multistate license can be revoked. 

Advantages of eNLC

The NLC provides opportunity for more than 2 million RNs and LPN/LVNs who meet the Uniform Licensure Requirements in their home state to become eligible for multistate licensure. The nurse must be eligible for an unencumbered license for full and unrestricted practice. This means no restrictions on their license for alternative programs such as for DUIs or drug diversion. There can be no misdemeanor or felony related to nursing practice and no other disciplinary actions by the state Board of Nursing. To apply for the multistate license, go to the state board of nursing website for the state of residency. Then click on apply for a new license. There should be an option that says “eNLC Upgrade Application” or “Apply for a multistate license.” Choose this option and follow from there. For military nurses or spouses or nurses who are moving from one state to another, the NLC can make life much easier to obtain licensure by endorsement. The NLC offers a fact sheet covering numerous options to help simplify the process. Verification of compact licensure can be made at free of charge. 

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