Post-COVID Changes to the NLC: What You Need To Know
Seasoned travel nurses likely are familiar with the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), the compact allowing them to practice across different states without the need for additional licensing and credentialing. It’s a must-have for travel nurses. Yet it’s far from an all-in-one solution to standardizing licensure because it’s an opt-in compact not recognized by every state. It’s also constantly evolving, which means nurses must be aware of where the NLC enables them to practice.
Here’s a look at the NLC post-COVID and the ways recent changes are pushing the NLC closer to a common standard across all states.
The NLC’s importance for travel nurses
The NLC is a multistate license permitting nurses to practice in member states. Travel nurses benefit greatly from the NLC because it saves time and money spent applying for single-state licenses. It also gives travel nurses more flexibility to move from one job to the next, especially since taking a new assignment often requires crossing state lines.
Participation has steadily grown over the years. More states have chosen to join the NLC due to its proven ability to increase healthcare access for patients. The compact can also lower costs for patients, hospitals, and insurance agencies.
A handful of states have yet to join the compact. They argue it could lower single-state license revenue and remove the bargaining power of states with competitive wages. Nevertheless, the NLC remains as close to a ubiquitous license as you can get.
COVID has pushed states to join the NLC
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted several states to join the compact, as previously resistant states witnessed staff shortages in hospitals across the nation. The NLC can serve as a safeguard against future public health crises by expanding telehealth services and giving hospitals quicker access to additional nursing assistants.
The compact currently has 39 participating states. Since the pandemic began, three states have joined the NLC: Ohio, Vermont, and New Jersey. Several other states have pending legislation and might become members of the NLC in the near future. These states include:
- New York
- Rhode Island
The time to apply for the NLC is now
During the pandemic, many states chose to participate in the quasi-national compact. This compact granted temporary nursing licenses in regions where a state of emergency had been declared. But the quasi-national compact is starting to fade away. With COVID in the rearview mirror, the last remaining temporary licenses will expire by mid-2023. Nurses who wish to keep their licenses (and the flexibility to work in multiple states) will need to apply for the NLC.
It’s important to note the NLC is not available to all nurses. A nurse must be a permanent resident of an NLC member state. Nurses residing in non-NLC states are not eligible for the multistate license.
Travel nurses must do more than apply for their NLCs. Anyone interested in joining the compact must understand how it has evolved and how it will continue to evolve in the future. Staying up to date on the changes will give travel nurses greater freedom to work and live where they choose.