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Compact States: Everything you Need to Know

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Compact States: Everything you Need to Know

Compact States: Everything you Need to Know

One of the great attributes of being a Nurse is that you can live anywhere in the country and there will be a place for you to work. Wouldn’t it be great if you could move wherever you wanted without having to google which states are compact states? Or having to worry about submitting money, paperwork, and fingerprints to reapply for your license? States are slowly, but surely moving toward streamlining their licenses, and here is a quick update on the future of compact states.

What are compact states?

Compact states are a group of states that have joined the Nurse Licensure Compact which enables the state to honor any license from any state that is also in the NLC. For instance, a Florida licensed nurse can practice in Georgia because they are both compact states. These states all endorse each other’s licenses, making nursing practice more fluid.

Compact States: Everything you Need to Know

Currently, there are 32 states in the NLC.

New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
South Carolina
North Dakota
South Dakota
West Virginia

The Future of Compact States

There are some other states attempting to implement legislation in order to join the NLC. Current states that have proposed legislature are:

● California

● Alaska

● Illinois

● Minnesota

● Pennsylvania

● Vermont

● Massachusetts

Indiana has already passed a legislature that is just waiting for implementation. If all of these states pass, that would bring the total to 40 compact states out of 50 total states.

So what if my state is not a compact state?

States that are not in the compact state must apply for licensure by endorsement in the new state which ultimately racks up new fees and extra time. You would then essentially have only a single state license or two single state licenses depending on whether you moved from a compact state or not. Have more questions? The NCSBN provides some different moving scenarios here.

Benefits of Having a License in a Compact State:

Telehealth opportunities: There are many new companies that are offering telehealth services to their patients and a lot of these utilize multi-state licensed nurses.
Can practice across borders: Let’s say that you live in Florida, but the Georgia border is only 30 minutes away and there’s a great opportunity there. Since Florida and Georgia are both compact states, you can take that opportunity.
Teach via distance education: With a multi-state license, you can live in Kansas but teach students online at a school-based in Missouri.
Provide easier response in a national disaster (i.e. COVID-19): A multi-state license allows you the freedom to help out other states in the midst of a natural disaster.
Easier if needing to move to a different state: Multi-state licenses make it easier to get hired right away if you were to need to move to a different state.

Why should every state join the NLC?

More mobile nurse practicing: Travel nursing, which currently is a big help to the staffing shortage that we all experience would be able to grow ten-fold if every state was under one compact licensure. We would finally have help!

Prevent maldistribution of licensed nurses: With each state having different licensure requirements, there tends to be a concentration of nurses in states that are “easier” to get licensed in.

Useful for nurses that live on borders: Many nurses who live on the borders of different states would have a lot more opportunity to provide patient care. Additionally, the care facilities that are located on borders would have greater employment selection which would decrease staffing shortages.

Less boundary definition: If we focus more on boundaries for licensure, there is less attention to patient needs. However, less focus on boundaries increases the attention to patient needs.

Virtual care might need more compact licensure in the future: With a big push towards virtual care, the demand for registered nurses, and therefore compact licensure, would be increasingly necessary in the future.

Would standardize care: There are currently different requirements between compact and non-compact states for licensure so ultimately, every state becoming a part of the NLC would help standardize the level of care nurses provide.

COVID-19 and Licensure Requirements

Most of the states have adapted their licensure requirements to allow for additional access to nurses despite geographical borders. Some states were more lenient than others. Check out the temporary licensure requirements of your state

Even though states are allowing nurses with different licenses to practice, COVID didn’t change the initial licensing requirements.

Compact states might just be the future of nursing. Do you live in a compact state? Do you think there are any disadvantages to having standard licensure like the NLC? Let’s talk about it!






Katelyn Johnson

Katelyn Johnson


Katelyn has a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and five years of clinical experience. She has made the shift to full-time freelance writing and enjoys covering topics on nursing careers, lifestyle, and community. Her goal is to help start a conversation and spread awareness around the many ups and downs of the healthcare field.


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