State licensure: What you need to know to be a travel nurse

Written by Super User on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 Posted in Application & Interviews


Travel nursing has developed in response to our country's nursing shortage and has many great advantages for nurses. With travel nursing, you'll be able to grow in your nursing career through a dynamic lineup of different clinical experiences. Plus, it adds an element of adventure to your job experience by allowing you to explore different cities and meet new co-workers. Before you set off on your travel assignment, you'll need to understand the licensing requirements for state-to-state nursing practice in the U.S.

There are two types of state licenses nurses may apply for: single state licensure and multistate licensure, also known as the Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC. The nursing licensure required for practice differs from state to state and depends on the state where you legally reside and where you are planning to travel for an assignment.

Single state licensure:

If the state in which you legally reside requires you to obtain a single state license to practice, this is your only option. Not all states currently participate in the NLC. If your primary state of residence is not a “compact” state, you will not be eligible for a multistate license. If this is the case, you will need to apply for a state licensure to practice nursing in each state you travel to for work.

Multistate licensure or NLC:

If the state in which you legally reside participates as a “compact” state, you'll be able to apply for multistate licensure.

There are a few rules you must follow:

  • You must declare the NLC state as your legal state of residency.
  • You must be a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical/vocational nurse (LPN/LVN). (Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) do not qualify for multistate licensure.)
  • You must be a nurse in good standing, i.e., not under discipline or restriction.
  • You must meet the licensure requirements of the state in which you legally reside.
  • You must pay any applicable fees for licensure in your primary state of residency.
  • You must follow all requirements associated with the Nurse Practice Act in the state you travel to for work.

With NLC, you will be able to practice in any “compact” state without applying for licensure in that state or paying additional fees. However, if you travel to a “non-compact” state, you'll need to apply for licensure to practice in that state and pay any applicable licensure fees.

Your recruiter can help:

The recruiter at your professional staffing service is an experienced resource. He or she will be able to provide the guidance you need to obtain the required state licensure for your travel assignments. Also, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website has valuable information to help you learn more about state licensure requirements and how the NLC works.

Travel nursing is a rewarding and exciting opportunity in the nursing field. If you have questions or need more information about travel nursing, speak with your recruiter. If you are just starting your travel-nursing career, contact the staffing specialists at Health Providers Choice. We take great pride in partnering with nurses in their careers and would love to discuss how we could help you.