Licensing Tips for Brand New Travel Nurses

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    One of the hardest parts of being a brand new travel nurse is understanding state licensing. Here we review the compact states license and some common questions for new travel nurses.

    Licensing Tips for Brand New Travel Nurses

    State Licensures: Compact or no?

    One of the biggest hassles while travel nursing is dealing with state licensures. You find your perfect assignment, high pay, great location, and fantastic housing. One big problem, you find out that you are not licensed in that state and it could take almost 6 weeks or longer before you are able to actually get your nursing license in the state of your perfect assignment. There are a lot of different ways to address this problem, but one of the easiest is knowing what states are considered compact states.

    Compact States, What are those?

    If you are new to travel nursing compact states are simply states where your license is transferable from another state and you don't have to do anything additional to be licensed there. Knowing what states are compact is one of the most useful tools that you can have as a travel nurse. There are 25 compact states currently and that list could potentially grow significantly over the next 3-5 years. If you are licensed in one of these states you can work in any of the other 25 states with your current state RN licensure.

    One thing to keep in mind is where your permanent tax residency is located. Whatever address you have on your license should match your state licensure unless you have moved recently. If your permanent tax residency is in a non-compact state, unfortunately, you are not eligible for a compact license. Note: As a travel nurse moving your permanent tax residency to a compact state can be an easy way to make yourself eligible for a compact license. For more questions click here. The list of current compact states is listed below:

    New Hampshire
    New Mexico
    North Carolina
    North Dakota
    New Mexico
    Rhode Island
    South Carolina

    Keep in mind this list WILL CHANGE!!! It is important to check these regularly (at least every 6 months). IF you have questions check This website is the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and is the definitive resource for clarification on compact states. Be careful of information on websites of travel nursing companies as they tend to have bias agendas and their information may not be 100% accurate.

    "Walk Through" and Quick Licensure States

    Don't have a compact license? Don't worry we've got you covered. Another great resource is understanding what is considered a "walk through" state and a quick licensure state. The simple definition of a "walk through" is a state where you can get you RN license in that state in 24 hours or less. First and foremost, let me start by saying this is not set in stone. There is no definitive list of what states are specifically "walk through" states. These can vary by the time of year and just how many applications the Board of Nursing (BON) in that state is processing at the current moment. However, there are several states where this almost always applies. Below is a list of "walk through" states.
    1. Alaska
    2. Arizona
    3. Hawaii
    4. Idaho
    5. Missouri
    6. Louisiana
    7. South Carolina
    8. Wyoming

    While "walk through states are great for getting your license quickly, there are several other states where you can get a license in 10 days or less. While these are not considered "walk through" states, it is valuable to know these as well because typically you can be submitted for a travel nursing position BEFORE you have to actually pay to obtain a license. These are usually called quick licensure states. (I know very original). Below is a list of quick licensure states:
    1. Minnesota
    2. Wisconsin
    3. Nevada
    4. Texas
    5. Colorado

    One big thing to keep in mind is that this list does can change throughout the year based on how busy the BON is in each state. Also, remember that processing times will almost assuredly be slower around graduation time because of all the new RN license applications that need to be processed.

    Playing the long game

    While being able to equip yourself with knowledge on what state licensures you can obtain quickly is great, there are going to be licensures that are going to take a while. Knowing what states a license will take longer, or is some cases much longer than 10 days is a good way for travel RN's to plan ahead. There are a lot of different reasons that a state licensure would take longer to process; some of these include high volume for the BON, poor and/or slow processing procedures, or even stricter requirements for the issuing of new licensures. Below is a list of the states that take the longest to get an RN license issued. (approximate processing times included):
    1. California (3-6 months)
    2. Illinois (3-6 weeks)
    3. Florida (3-6 weeks)
    4. Ohio (3-5 weeks)
    5. Massachusetts (3-4 weeks)

    Tips for licensing

    I know what you're thinking, "I wanted to go to California and now I have to wait 6 months?" This is a very common problem for new travel nurses. They typically have a good idea of what location they are interested in and then they find out how long it will take to get a license and they don't want to wait that long. Don't worry I've got a few key tips that might just be able to help.

    1 ) Going to the BON is a specific state can really speed up the process. RN's that take required documentation to the BON in a specific state and do their fingerprinting process there will really help to get your license processed faster. It is definitely worth it to take a road trip (or fly) to the state you are trying to get licensed in

    2 ) Make sure you know what documents are required for the license you are applying for. It happens all too often that an RN takes valuable time out of their day to send in documents to the BON for a new state licensure, only to find out they sent the wrong documents 10 days later. You have now wasted 10 valuable days. Researching information on the BON website for the state you are trying to get licensed in is a great way to avoid this pitfall.

    3 ) Call the BON yourself. This might seem self-explanatory, but this can be the easiest way to get things done. Some BON will be challenging to actually talk to someone, but if you can get someone on the phone they can usually tell you what has been received, what else you might need to do, and give you a time frame on when your license will be active.

    4 ) Take an assignment close by to start. If you want to go to San Francisco and you live in Illinois you already know that it is going to take quite a while for you to get your California RN license. I always suggest taking an assignment in your home state first and working on your next license while on your first assignment. Some travel agencies will even foot the bill for the license!!!

    5 ) Research, research research. All of this state licensing information is on the internet. Be careful where your information comes from, but if you have a question do a little research. Most of the answers you are looking for can be found from your smartphone is just a few simple clicks.

    State licensures are just one of the many issues that travel nurses face. As I stated above make sure you are keeping up with the changes that will ultimately affect you. The states that are currently considered compact or quick licensure will definitely change in the upcoming future. Staying on top of this information could be the difference between your dream assignment and an assignment in the middle of nowhere. Happy Travels!!!
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18 : Reason: formatting
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  3. by   EdieBrous
    Nurses should also understand that once they have been issued a license in a state, the state maintains the authority to discipline that license even after it has not been renewed. Discipline in one state causes discipline in all of the others. Traveling nurses must know the practice acts and self-reporting requirements for each of those states.
  4. by   guest4/24/17
    Amazing article. Definitely sharing, thanks for compiling that info!
    Last edit by AN Admin Team on Apr 20, '17
  5. by   Travel_RN1
    Yes. knowing what is and not permissible by the BON can save a lot of money. Like having EVERYTHING sent directly from the school to the BON, since some BON's don't accept anything from the applicant, except the application. i.e CA BON