The Complete Guide to Compact States

What Are Nursing Compact States?

Compact states are states that have joined together to legally permit their nurses to obtain a multi-state license called a compact license. Each compact state has passed legislation through their state government approving this change. A compact license enables nurses to work in any other state that has adopted this measure using their multi-state license.  

The official title enabling this practice is Nursing Licensure Compact or NLC. It was revised on July 18, 2018 and is now referred to as the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Fortunately, the majority of states have joined the eNLC, releasing nurses from the burden of applying for and maintaining licenses in several states.

You may hear Nursing Compact, NLC, eNLC, and multi-state license all thrown around. Essentially, they all mean the same thing. In this and the following articles, “compact states” refers to those states that have enacted the eNLC.

Similarly, a “compact license” is a license obtained in a compact state that serves as a multi-state nursing license but can only be used in other compact states. Nurses who want to work in states that are not part of the eNLC must apply for that state’s single license in addition to having a compact license from their home state.

Nurses who had obtained compact licenses under the original NLC were mostly grandfathered in and allowed to continue to practice under the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Still, they should check their own state’s rules. All but one of the original compact states (Rhode Island) adopted the more recent eNLC guidelines. As a result, Rhode Island has delayed becoming an eNLC state, and those nurses with compact licenses from R.I. can no longer practice in other compact states.

The eNLC is only for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs/LVNs). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has been working on a compact agreement for APRNs that will be implemented when at least seven states enact the legislation. Currently, three states have enacted APRN legislation, and two have pending legislation. Note, if you’re a federal or military nurse, there are some differences you should know.

US map of nursing compact states

Compact States
(members of the eNLC)

In total, 35 jurisdictions have enacted legislation and are currently members of the eNLC. These 35 states have implemented the nurse licensure compact as of June 2022, and two states and two territories are awaiting implementation.
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

What States Have Enacted but Not Yet Implemented the eNLC?

Overall, the implementation period typically lasts six months to one year but could be longer.
Even after obtaining a compact license, it is essential that nurses check the rules of the states in which they desire to work. Nurses can be held to the standard of practice each state outlines despite having a multi-state license.

Ohio

The NLC was signed into law on July 1, 2021 and will be implemented on January 1, 2023. After this date, Ohio nurses may apply for a multi-state license, and nurses from other compact states will be able to work in Ohio.

Pennsylvania

The NLC was signed into law on July 1, 2021; however, the date of implementation is yet to be determined. Their Nursing Board is awaiting approval of the NLC language so that it can provide criminal background checks. Until then, nurses with multi-state licenses are not allowed to practice in the state, and nurses residing in Pennsylvania can’t apply for a multi-state license.

Guam

Has enacted the eNLC and plans to implement it in 2022. Guam nurses cannot apply for a multi-state license until then; however, nurses holding a multi-state license from their home state are allowed to practice in Guam.

Virgin Islands

Enacted the eNLC but is awaiting implementation. A date has not been set. VI nurses cannot obtain a multistate license, and nurses with compact licenses from other NLC states may not practice in VI until implementation is complete.

Which States are Pending eNLC Legislation?

These states currently have proposed bills to join the eNLC, according to the NCSBN.

Massachusetts

HB1284 was referred to the Committee on Health Care Financing and Joint Hearing.  The current reporting date has been extended to Sunday, July 31, 2022.

New York

A10559. In Jan 2022, Governor Hochul proposed legislation to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and the Nurse Licensure Compact, which she added to her budget for the SFY for 2023. A10559 is active as of July 2022.

Illinois

HB 4269 was last referred to the Rules Committee on 2/18/2022 and is awaiting to be re-heard by the House.  An additional sponsor was added on 4/7/2022.

Rhode Island

HB 7268 and SB 163.  On 06/22/2022 the House assigned a commission to review statewide nursing employment data and practice regulations for HB 7268.  Findings are to be reported no later than April 13, 2023.

Michigan

Michigan governor vetoed HB 4046 which had passed both the Senate and House. Another bill is being planned.

Which States are Without eNLC Legislation in 2022?

There are 13 states + D.C., and two territories that do not have eNLC legislation. Some states have submitted bills that either are pending, failed, or became stalled during the process.
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
Other non-compact jurisdictions:
  • District of Columbia
  • America Samoa
  • Mariana Islands

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Some States Generally Resistant to Joining the Compact?

Some states are resistant to joining the eNLC for a few reasons. The first has to do with perceived workers’ rights. Many of these states have strong ties to protecting their labor unions. They see the compact as an attempt to weaken their ability to do collective bargaining. Some nurses feel that administrators are only pro-compact so they can reduce nursing shortages in their facilities. Some people believe that relieving those shortages will lessen a nurse’s ability to negotiate better working conditions. The fear is that if they became a compact state, out-of-state nurses would come in and take jobs away from their own state’s nurses.

The second area revolves around non-compact state nursing board concerns. They feel that allowing compact nurses will diminish their pool of state-dedicated nurses. They have expressed that nurses from other states may not have the same high standards, and therefore patient safety would suffer. The compact does not clarify how discipline issues are to be handled.

And lastly, there is, of course, money. If nurses do not have to pay for separate nursing licenses and renewal fees for each state, that will lower the revenue stream that the state’s board of nursing brings in. And at the same time, nursing boards are not necessarily going to receive more state money to manage increased monitoring and oversight of compact nurses’ practice.


How Can I Determine If I Have a Compact License?

You can quickly check if your license is compact or not through Nursys, the only national database for verifying nurse licensure, discipline, and practice privileges for RNs and LPNs/LVNs. Here you can view all your licenses—both active and lapsed—and their compact status (single-state, multi-state, or N/A). If you download your Nursys report (easy and completely free), it will list out each and every state you are eligible to practice in.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Nurse in a Compact State?

First and foremost, working as a nurse in a compact state allows your nursing license to be accepted in any of the current 35 compact-implemented states and Guam. Having a multi-state license removes one major complexity that must be dealt with when working in one state with plans to work in another regarding requirements for nurse licensure.

This benefit is especially useful for travel nurses and telehealth positions. It means you don’t have to worry about applying for and renewing your nursing license across multiple states since you have a multi-state nursing licensure. Nor do you have to wait weeks to months for a license in the new state you applied to work in to come through.  

Basically, you save money and time by not having to apply for and renew various state licenses. You also have additional mobility when deciding where to work as a nurse (especially in the short term if you’re looking for travel nursing jobs).

What Are the Challenges of Being a Nurse in a Compact State?

There aren’t many immediate challenges unless you want to work in a non-compact state, such as California or Connecticut. If you do, you’ll have to apply for and keep up to date on that state’s specific requirements for licensure as well as those for your compact license. In addition, you are bound by that state’s regulations and scope of practice, so you need to become familiar with any differences. If you have a free profile on Trusted, we’ll automatically notify you when a license is expiring soon.

If you’re currently licensed and living in a state with eNLC legislation pending, you do have to wait to apply for your compact license until an implementation date. So, you may be forced to renew your single-state license while waiting.

So, if compact status is really important for you, you may want to consider moving your Primary State of Residence (PSOR), or home state, to one within the eNLC. Your driver’s license, federal tax return, or voter registration (i.e., which proves where you live when you’re not on a travel nurse assignment) confirms which is your home state. In other words, your “home” home. Mind you, you cannot just own real estate in a designated “home” state. You must adopt that state as your new permanent home.

What Are the Advantages for States Within the Nursing Compact?

States that are part of the eNLC benefit from having greater access to a wider variety of more mobile and logistically available nurses. This flexibility promotes travel nursing and filling in for per-diem shifts across state lines, given the demand for nurses in various states.

In times of crisis, nurses from other compact states can immediately respond and travel to help. In addition, rural and remote areas can benefit from nurses filling staff positions, even if only temporarily needed.

Accordingly, it increases access to high-quality nursing professionals who are not constrained by a single-state license; ultimately, it’s a win-win!

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