What travel nurses need to know when applying for a license

NurseLicenseEvery state is completely different when it comes to licensing; meaning every time you consider an assignment in a new state you could go through a very different process than the state before. Luckily, you’re not alone in navigating the process. Between your nurse recruiter and the dedicated credentialing team at Cirrus Medical Staffing, you’ll be ready with license in-hand when you need it. Keep in mind the tips below, and you’ll have a head-start on your next assignment!

Compact States

The APRN Compact and the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), as they’re formally referred to, allow nurses to practice in other compact states with a single multistate license. To be eligible, these nurses must have permanent residence in a member state so they can be issued a license for another compact state.

If a nurse cannot show proof of residence (usually two valid IDs) in a compact state, they can’t get a compact license.

NLC state map

(Source: https://www.ncsbn.org/nurse-licensure-compact.htm)

Walkthrough States

If your assignment is in a walk-through state, you have the option of walking into the Nursing Board in that state, presenting the necessary documents, and being issued a license on the spot. Here are the caveats:

  1. Check the Nursing Board’s website and call in advance to be sure you bring the correct documentation with you to receive your license. Remember that every state is different, so documentation may vary from state to state – always have two forms of ID!
  2. Some documents you need could take time to acquire, such as license verification from other states. Even though you can show up at the Nursing Board and get a license then and there, you must allow time to prepare the documents you’ll need.
  3. Make sure you can go to the Nursing Board several days before the start of your assignment in case there is a problem with your documents. If you wait until the last minute, your assignment could be delayed or canceled if you cannot get your license for any reason.

Walkthrough states include: AZ, SC, MO, HI, LA, VT, ID

Temporary License States

Some states offer temporary licenses, which allow you to provide minimum documentation in order to be issued a license quicker. To receive the permanent license, you must gradually provide the remaining documents required by that state within a certain period of time. If you do not provide the needed documents to the board before the expiration date, you will have to start the process over again if you plan to work in that state again (which is always a possibility!), and you will be pulled from your assignment if you’re currently working in said state. Since you’re likely in a hurry to get your license, this is a great option as long as you plan to complete the paperwork and get the permanent license.

Everywhere Else

For states that aren’t compact, walk-through, or do not have a temporary license option, you must be diligent about applying early since these states can take the longest to send your license. Check the State Board’s website to see what is required. Most states will allow you to be licensed by endorsement, so you need to allow time to acquire these documents from other states. Once you submit your application, you must continue to follow up with the Board to ensure all external documents arrive in their hands, such as school transcript and license verifications.

Additional Things to Keep in Mind

  1. The quickest states to acquire a license are walkthrough states because as long as you have all the proper documentation, you can show up at the Nursing Board a few days before your assignment begins and be issued a license immediately. If you need to go on assignment quickly, you might consider these states first.
  2. If you’re currently traveling, always keep in mind where you want to go next so you can work on compiling the documents and applying for a license in a new state.
  3. Don’t wait until you’ve already booked an assignment in a certain state before starting the licensure process. If you do wait, then make sure the assignment is 3-4 weeks out so that you will have plenty of time.
  4. Follow up, follow up, follow up! Call the Board after you submit your application and find out what they are still waiting on. Call your academic institution to confirm they are sending transcripts. Call other state Boards to ask how long it will take to send license verification. If you mail a check with your application, watch your bank account to make sure it clears.
  5. Once you book an assignment, CMS’s credentialing team can assist you with follow-up to the Board, and help you search the Board website. Ultimately, attaining your license is up to you, as many Nursing Boards will not communicate with anyone except the RN applying for a license.

Ready to start looking for your first (or next) travel assignment? Browse our jobs here! Know a friend who might be interested in becoming a travel nurse? Connect them with one of our recruiters, and get a bonus for yourself.