Two-thirds of States Now Part of Nurse Licensure Compact

Two thirds of states now part of nurse licensure compact

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

When Indiana implemented the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) on July 1, it became the 34th state to do so. 

Two-thirds of the states in the nation are now participants in the compact, which grants a multistate license to registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses to practice in all the member states—as long as their primary state of residence is a member and their license is in good standing.  That means nurses don’t have to get additional licenses to practice in all those other states, which can save them (and their employers) time and energy.  

But supporters of the compact say Indiana won’t be the last to join the other states in the NLC. Since other states have either recently considered legislation or may still be considering legislation to join the compact, the number of participants is expected to grow in the near future.

WANT to learn more about the NLC? Check out our resource page

What has happened in 2020 so far?

Before a state can participate in the NLC, the state’s legislature must approve legislation to join the compact. 

During 2020, legislation was proposed in 10 states, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Those states included: Alaska, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington and Connecticut, as well as the territory of Guam. However, the coronavirus pandemic interrupted or truncated many states’ legislative sessions. 

Jim Puente, director of the Nurse Licensure Compact for the NCSBN, noted that Vermont and Pennsylvania are very strong candidates to be the next states to join the compact. Both states had legislation, which received strong support, under consideration earlier this year.

“There is significant support in the legislature,” said Puente. “So those are the two states that we anticipate, along with Guam, to move in 2020.” 

As for the other states, it’s possible that the issue will come up again soon.

“We anticipate in 2021 that all of the bills that did not pass this year will come back and be introduced again,” said Puente.

One state in the process is expected to finish up its implementation in early 2021. Typically, implementation of the compact happens all in one step, but the pandemic interrupted the normal process in New Jersey. So that state implemented Phase 1 earlier this year to enable nurses from other states to come work in New Jersey. The second phase will be implemented in the first quarter of 2021, which will allow New Jersey nurses to obtain a multistate license. 

The pandemic’s impact on licensure

Could the coronavirus pandemic sway more states into the joining the NLC in the future? Possibly, said Puente.

As the pandemic unfolded, some states found their healthcare workforces struggling to keep up, especially as some of their personnel fell sick, too. Hospitals and healthcare facilities in hard-hit areas began to recruit nurses from other states and out of retirement to help fill the need for more staff. 

But each state’s emergency orders are different, with different requirements and different expiration states, which has complicated the situation for hospitals that need nurses. When you factor in emergency order extensions that vary from state to state, that’s a lot of moving parts for health officials and administrators to coordinate.

“Many states said, ‘If we were only in the compact, we wouldn’t be in this predicament with temporary emergency orders,” Puente said. 

In some states, the agencies that conducted background checks for nurses were temporarily closed, which also affected the temporary licensing process in some situations. 

“So COVID has caused states that may not have previously considered the compact to consider it,” Puente said. 



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