the complete guide

Nursing Compact States

Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact

What Are Nursing Compact States?

The originally titled Nursing Licensure Compact, or NLC, allows registered nurses to work across states that are part of the compact. In other words, nurses can practice in any NLC state without having to obtain additional licenses specific to each state since they have a compact nursing license (also known as a multistate license). Although technically, the terminology of NLC was officially replaced by the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) on July 18, 2018.

You may hear Nursing Compact, NLC, eNLC, and multistate license all thrown around. Essentially, they all mean the same thing. For the purpose of this and 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 multistate nursing license when used in other compact states.

The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), continuing what the originally named NLC set forward, allows any nurse who resides in one of the participating states to practice nursing in any of the states forming the compact state alliance. All of the original compact states adopted the more recent eNLC guidelines, except for Rhode Island, which is no longer part of the nursing compact.

The eNLC is only for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs/LVNs). The NCSBN has been working on a compact agreement for APRNs that will be implemented when at least 10 states enact the legislation. Note, if you’re a federal or military nurse, there are some differences you should be aware of.

US map of nursing compact states

Current

Compact States (Members of the eNLC)

The below 35 states have enacted the nurse licensure compact as of March 8, 2021:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey* (see 1. below)
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
1. These states have enacted but not yet implemented the eNLC:
2. These states are still pending legislation:
3. These states/territories are without legislation to become eNLC states as of 2021:

Do You Have a Compact License?

You can easily check if your license is compact or not through Nursys, the only national database for the verification of 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 35 compact-implemented states. This removes most the of complexities that must be dealt with when working in one state versus another (particularly regarding requirements for nurse licensure).

This is especially useful for travel nurses. It means you don’t have to worry about applying for and renewing your nursing license across multiple states since you have compact, or multistate, nursing licensure.

Basically, you save money and time by not having to apply for and renew a variety of state licenses, and you 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, per se, save for the fact that if you do ever want to work in a non-compact state, such as California or New York, you’ll have to apply for and keep up-to-date on those state-specific requirements for licensure in addition to those required by your compact license.

On the other hand, if you’re currently licensed and living in state with legislation pending, there’s no telling how long you may have to wait for your state to join the eNLC.

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. This is confirmed via 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). In other words, your "home" home.

What Are the Advantages for States Within the Nursing Compact?

States that are part of the eNLC benefit from greater access to a wider variety of more mobile and logistically available nurses. This helps to promote travel nursing and per-diem shifts across state lines given the demand for nurses in various states. Accordingly, it increases access to high-quality nursing professionals who are not constrained by a single-state license; ultimately, it's a win-win!