The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) began on January 19, 2018, but most nurses simply refer to it as the Compact. Under the eNLC, registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs) living in states that have joined the Compact can apply for one multistate license and practice in person or via telehealth in any state that’s also part of the Compact. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), 39 U.S. states or territories have enacted legislation to join the eNLC as of October 2022.
Which States Are in the eNLC?
Nurse graduates and current RNs or LPNs/LVNs wanting to apply for a multistate license must apply with the State Board of Nursing in their primary state of residence (PSOR). Of the following states, 35 have fully implemented the eNLC and Ohio is set to be fully implemented on January 1, 2023. Nurses who obtain or already have a multistate license can practice in any of these states.
One U.S. territory has enacted legislation to join the Compact and partially implemented the NLC. Plus, one state and one U.S. territory have enacted legislation to join the Compact but are awaiting implementation.
- Guam: The governor of Guam signed the NLC into law on 3/5/2021, making it the first U.S. territory to enact the NLC. Nurses with a multistate license can practice in Guam, but nurses residing in Guam can’t obtain a multistate license until the NLC is fully implemented, tentatively due to occur in 2022.
- Pennsylvania: The governor of Pennsylvania signed the NLC into law on 7/1/2021 to begin the process of adding the state to the Compact. Nurses holding a multistate license can’t practice in the state without a Pennsylvania license, and nurses residing in Pennsylvania can’t apply for a multistate license until the state completes the implementation process. It’s still awaiting a response from the FBI regarding criminal background checks and other regulations implementing the NLC, so an implementation date hasn’t been posted yet.
- U.S. Virgin Islands: The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed the NLC into law on 12/6/2021. Like Pennsylvania, it’s awaiting implementation of criminal background checks through the FBI, and an implementation date hasn’t been determined. Until then, nurses holding a multistate license can’t practice in the U.S. Virgin Islands without obtaining an endorsement through the USVI Board of Nurse Licensure. Plus, nurses residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands can’t apply for multistate licenses until full implementation goes into effect.
States with Pending Legislation
Eight states currently have pending legislation that could allow them to join the Compact. However, similar legislation has previously been introduced in each of these states and didn’t pass, so there’s a chance that the pending legislation will also fail.
- Alaska: Senate Bill 67 and House Bill 83 both stalled during a third special session held in September 2021 but are still currently in play during the 2022 session.
- Illinois: House Bill 4269 and House Bill 4531 both deal with ratifying and approving the NLC to allow for the issuance of multistate licenses. They were re-referred to the Rules Committee on 3/18/2022.
- Massachusetts: House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 163 were referred to the Committee on Health Care Financing, and a Joint Hearing was scheduled for 10/19/2021. The reporting date was extended on 3/31/2022 and again on 6/2/2022. On 8/8/2022, it was placed in the Orders of the Day for the next session. The previous NLC legislation, House Bill 1944, failed in 2020.
- Michigan: House Bill 4046 is a reintroduced version of a bill to enact the NLC. It was referred to the Committee on Health Policy on 1/27/2021, where it remains but is still in play. Previously, House Bill 4042 introduced enactment of the NLC in 2020 covered. It passed both chambers of the Michigan Legislature but was vetoed by the governor on 12/30/2020.
- Minnesota: Senate File 2302 and House File 2184 introduced an act that would allow the creation of the NLC in March 2021. After a lengthy stall following referral to the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, movement on the Senate File began again on 2/7/2022. It passed the senate on 3/7/2022 and went to the House, where the first reading and referral to the Health Finance and Policy Committee took place.
- New York: Assembly Bill A10559 would enact the interstate medical licensure compact and the nurse licensure compact, and Assembly Bill A10615 and the corresponding Senate Bill S9236 would enact the interstate nurse licensure compact and the advanced practice registered nurse compact. Both Assembly bills are currently with the Assembly Higher Education Committee, and the Senate bill is with the Senate Higher Education Committee. Various versions of these bills have been introduced every session since 2009, including the bills introduced in 2021 that attempted to enact the military spouse act and adopt the interstate nursing licensure compact, which were stricken.
- Rhode Island: Senate Bill 2472 was introduced and referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on 3/1/2022. It was scheduled for hearing on 4/1/2022 and recommended for further study on 4/5/2022. The corresponding House Bill 7155 was withdrawn at the sponsor’s request and House Resolution 7268 Sub A passed instead. This bill creates a special legislative commission to study and provide recommendations for amending the previous nurse licensure compact and adopting the enhanced nurse licensure compact. The commission must report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 4/13/2023. Rhode Island was part of the original NLC, but when the eNLC was introduced, the state didn’t join. After the original compact dissolved on 7/18/2018, Rhode Island was no longer a Compact state and has been working on legislation to join the eNLC since.
- Washington: Senate Bill 5247 of 2021 stalled in committee but was reintroduced and retained during the 1/10/2022 regular session, with the first reading held and referral to the Health & Long Term Care Committee on 1/18/2022.
Where Do the Rest of the States and Territories Stand?
Some states hesitate to join the NLC because it could lead to budget gaps for its nursing board, especially if it’s self-funded. These gaps might occur because out-of-state nurses currently paying for a single state license to practice in the non-compact state could utilize their compact license if the state joined the NLC. Some states could potentially lose the funds from 1,000s of licenses issued to non-resident nurses. There are also concerns over the cost of joining the compact and the potentially high cost of implementing necessary technology changes.
The remaining five states, three U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., currently don’t have any pending legislation regarding the NLC, though they’ve each previously tried to pass legislation.
- California: Assembly Bill No. 410 was introduced on 2/3/2021 and died on 1/31/2022.
- Connecticut: The governor signed House Bill 6449 on 7/12/2021 requiring the Department of Public Health Commissioner to convene working groups to determine whether the state should join an interstate licensure compact and to report their recommendations by January 15, 2022. No further action has been taken.
- Hawaii: House Bill 1363 established a task force to investigate the feasibility of adopting the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact in 2019, but it remains a non-eNLC state.
- Nevada: Assembly Bill 142 introduced on 2/16/2021 was deemed no further action allowed on 4/10/2021.
- Oregon: House Bill 2335 failed on 6/26/2021.
- Washington, D.C.: The District of Columbia determined in 2016 that it would lose 99% of its licensure fees if it joined the NLC and isn’t currently pursuing legislation.
- American Samoa: Nothing pending
- Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Nothing pending
- Puerto Rico is only an associate member of the NCSBN, unlike the other U.S. territories, and isn’t an NLC jurisdiction.
How Do Nurses Qualify for a Compact License?
Eligibility for a compact license begins with living in a Compact state, and according to the NCSBN, more than 2 million nurses do. You can’t apply for a multistate license if your declared PSOR isn’t part of the eNLC. Your PSOR is where you have legal resident status, which is the state where you obtain your driver’s license, register to vote and pay income taxes.
Meeting the requirements for licensure in your home state is one of the 11 uniform licensure requirements of obtaining a compact license. Other requirements include graduating from a board-approved education program, passing the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN and passing an English proficiency exam if your nursing program didn’t teach classes and use books in the English language.
You must also be eligible for or have an unencumbered nursing license, submit state and federal background checks and have a valid Social Security number. You also can’t have any felony convictions or any nursing-related misdemeanor convictions, and you can’t be currently participating in an alternative program. RNs and LPNs/LVNs who don’t meet the uniform licensure requirements may still be eligible for a single-state license, depending on your state’s rules.
Licensure In Compact and Non-Compact States
If your PSOR is a non-compact state, you have a single state license. You must apply for a license by endorsement if you take a temporary job in another state. If the state is part of the eNLC, your endorsement is still only valid in that one state. You can’t use an endorsement from a Compact state as a multistate license even though an eNLC state issued it. You also can’t apply for a multistate license in a state that’s not your PSOR, but you can have as many single state licenses as you want.
If you have a multistate license and you’re taking a temporary job in a non-compact state, you must apply for licensure by endorsement to the non-compact state’s board of nursing. You receive a single state license that’s good to practice in that state only. Your multistate license remains valid and usable in any other compact state as long as you keep it current and don’t do anything to inadvertently change your residency status, such as renewing your driver’s license in a state that’s not your PSOR.
What About the APRN Compact?
Advanced practice nurses may have the same ability to travel between states like RNs and LPNs/LVNs someday, but the APRN Compact has gotten off to an extremely slow start. Without the APRN Compact, certified nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists must hold individual licenses in every state where they practice.
The NCSBN developed a model for states to enact the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact, adopted on August 12, 2020, that works similarly to the eNLC. However, the APRN Compact can’t be implemented until seven states have enacted legislation. As of October 2022:
- North Dakota adopted the APRN Compact on 8/12/2020
- Delaware signed the APRN Compact into law on 8/4/2021
- Utah signed the APRN Compact into law on 3/24/2022
Maryland is the only state with pending legislation in Senate Bill 0154. The Senate Chamber first read the bill on 1/12/2022, then referred it to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Nothing further has been documented regarding this bill as of 10/18/2022.
Benefits of the Nurse Licensure Compact
The eNLC creates the possibility for an increased workforce, enables the continuation of patient care across state lines and resolves telehealth issues. It allows nurses to work in multiple states with one license, promoting greater nurse mobility. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this mobility greatly benefited states needing additional bedside nurses.
Nurses benefit from having more freedom to move around without the expense of paying for separate licenses, making it easier for them to go where they’re needed most. In the event of catastrophic natural or manmade disasters or public health crises, nurses from multiple states can quickly and efficiently respond.
It’s also beneficial to state nursing boards because they can more easily share information, including complaints and investigations. Multistate licensing also reduces the administrative tasks of licensing traveling nurses, making it quicker and easier to take on new nurses who already hold a multistate license.
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