RN Licensure

Navigate the RN licensure process with ease and maintain your standing as a registered nurse by understanding the essential requirements for obtaining, renewing, reinstating, or verifying your license.
RN Licensure

Are you a Registered Nurse (RN) student nearing graduation, a prospective RN student, or an aspiring RN seeking information about RN licensure? If so, this article will provide you with comprehensive guidance. From obtaining your initial RN license to renewing and verifying it, you'll find answers to all your questions.

Applying for an RN License by Examination

As a recent nursing graduate, you'll apply for your initial license through a process known as licensure by examination. This means that after completing your RN training and earning your degree, you must pass the national RN licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN, before obtaining a license in the state where you intend to work.

The NCLEX-RN is regulated by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Testing administrators vary from one state to another, so contact the NCSBN to locate a testing site near you. The exam consists of a computerized multiple-choice test and a clinical evaluation of your nursing skills.

Fulfilling Other RN Licensure Requirements

In addition to completing the NCLEX-RN, you'll need to fulfill various other requirements before being granted an initial RN license in your state. These requirements vary depending on the licensing state, but typical requirements include:

  • Proof of RN Diploma or Degree
  • College or University Transcripts
  • Current CPR Certification
  • Criminal Background Check or Fingerprint Card
  • Current Passport-Sized Photo
  • Payment of Current Examination Fee

Applying for an RN License Through Endorsement

Are you a currently licensed RN seeking to transfer your license to a different state? If so, many states will allow you to do so through processes known as endorsement or reciprocity. Requirements for these programs vary depending on the state where you wish to obtain a new license. However, some of the most common requirements include:

  • Proof of Current RN License
  • Current CPR Certification
  • Completion of Various Continuing Education Courses
  • Payment of the Current License Transfer Fee

Understanding the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC)

Many states in the U.S. have adopted the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) Agreement to streamline licensure for Registered Nurses who wish to work in states other than where they are licensed. As of 2023, 34 states participate in the NLC:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. Colorado
  6. Connecticut
  7. Delaware
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. Idaho
  11. Iowa
  12. Kansas
  13. Kentucky
  14. Maine
  15. Maryland
  16. Mississippi
  17. Missouri
  18. Montana
  19. Nebraska
  20. Nevada
  21. New Hampshire
  22. New Mexico
  23. North Carolina
  24. North Dakota
  25. Oklahoma
  26. Oregon
  27. Rhode Island
  28. South Carolina
  29. South Dakota
  30. Tennessee
  31. Texas
  32. Utah
  33. Vermont
  34. Virginia
  35. Washington
  36. West Virginia
  37. Wyoming

With the NLC agreement, you only need one license to practice as an RN in participating compact states. To determine which states are part of the NLC agreement, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.

Renewing Your RN License

RN license renewal requirements vary significantly among states. Each state's Board of Nursing sets the rules regarding RN renewals. The best way to learn about your state's requirements is to visit your state's Board of Nursing website. Nevertheless, RN renewals are typically required annually or biennially, and some common requirements are:

  • Proof of Current Employment
  • Proof of Current CPR Certification
  • Payment of the Appropriate Renewal Fee
  • Completion of Various Continuing Education Courses

Reinstating an Expired RN License

If you miss your license renewal date, your RN license will expire, and your status will be noted as inactive. In this case, you will need to reinstate your license. Contact your state's Board of Nursing and request a reinstatement application. The requirements necessary for reinstating an expired RN license vary; however, you will likely need to fulfill some or all of the following:

  • Proof of Your Most Current RN License
  • Criminal Background Check or Fingerprint Card
  • Completion of the NCLEX-RN (if your license has been expired for more than five years)
  • Completion of Various Continuing Education Classes
  • Proof of CPR Certification
  • Completion of Nursing Refresher Courses
  • Payment of the Current Reinstatement Fee

Verifying an RN License

Verifying your RN license is a simple process and can be done online either through your state's Board of Nursing website or the Nursys website. If your state allows online verifications, visit its website and search for a link labeled "verifications." If you cannot find such a link, visit the Nursys website. When verifying your license, be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your Full Name as it Appears on Your License
  • The State Where You Are Licensed
  • Your RN License Number
  • Your Social Security Number
  • The Address You Provided for Your Initial License
  • Your Birthdate

Familiarizing yourself with the requirements for obtaining, renewing, reinstating, or verifying your RN license can help you obtain licensure and maintain active standing. Always check with your state's nursing regulatory body for the most up-to-date information on obtaining, renewing, reinstating, or verifying your RN license.

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