Interstate Nurse Licensure

In order to practice in the medical field, one must hold an appropriate license verified by the state of practice. For nurses, this local licensing requirement has recently been updated. As of 2000, the interstate nurse license came into existence. This exciting option allows nurses to obtain licensure across multiple states, without having to obtain individual licenses from each state. There are many reasons why this route might be preferred, but it does come with its own challenges.

interstate nurse licensure

Why Interstate Licensure?

Interstate nurse licensure is remarkably useful. For example, some nurses may live near or on a state border, and obtaining a license valid in multiple states allows them quick and easy access to a variety of workplaces. 

With traditional licensing, obtaining a license for each nearby state would be a cumbersome and expensive process and may prevent nurses from applying to jobs close to home because of additional licensure fees. 

With interstate nurse licensure, this is not the case. Interstate licenses are possible because the requirements for all nurses are very similar across the country. Many states have accepted the interstate concept and put it into practice. Close neighbors - such as Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado - can accept nursing licenses from residents of other states. This is very reasonable as there is nothing physical keeping these nurses from applying for these jobs.

Another group of nurses that is making extensive use of interstate nursing licenses is traveling nurses. With travel nursing, nurses work for a facility for a short period of time and then move on. Travel nurses fill a much-needed role and help maintain staffing levels in institutions of all types across the country. 

However, much time and effort can be wasted applying for licensure in the state where the nurse is needed. By the time the license has been applied for, processed, and returned, the need could be gone. Travel nurses are by nature needed to fill short-term, often urgent roles, and long delays because of licensing is very inconvenient. 

Therefore, nurses in states where they accept interstate nursing licenses will be far more mobile and time-efficient. This option also allows more freedom for nurses to find a job that they truly enjoy, working with their desired caseload, regardless of geography.

Challenges of Interstate Nurse Licensure

Interstate nursing licenses can’t be hailed as the answer to all nursing problems. They come with a few key challenges of their own. For example, in the rare case that a complaint or issue arises, the matter is to be handled by the nurse's home state. 

This can be difficult because the home state in which the nurse holds a license may disagree with the practicing state in which the complaint was made. Good communication is needed to ensure that a high quality of patient care is maintained regardless of state. 

In addition, some states are more relaxed about continuing education requirements. Each state has the right to require or allow whatever they deem fit. However, with interstate nurse licensure programs, an agreement must be met so each nurse is clear about the continuing effort required to maintain their license. 

Some of these tricky issues are still being worked out individually between states and the lack of clarity can be off-putting to some nurses. The many potential benefits of interstate nurse licensure, however, mean that as more nurses choose this route, the easier these problems will be to solve.

Learn about how to get your nursing license, nursing license renewal, and license requirements.

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