The modern health care industry has become more fluid than ever before, with nurses frequently traveling across state lines to enable patients to have greater access to the care they need. That's the motivation behind the Nurse Licensure Compact, which is getting increasing news coverage lately due to some upcoming changes. All travel nurses should be familiar with the NLC and how it may transform in the future.
What is the NLC? The NLC is an agreement among states that enables nurses to receive one license that allows them to work in travel nurse jobs in multiple states. Prior to the NLC, if nurses crossed over into another state to provide care, they would need to be licensed in that state, too. Instead of having to obtain a license for each state in which nurses work, under the NLC, they can simply use a single multistate license to travel and work seamlessly across state lines.
Currently, there are 25 member states of the NLC, known as "compact states." Compact states have met all minimum requirements to be a member of the NLC, including conducting federal criminal background checks on applicants.
To receive a multistate license, nurses must be a legal resident of a compact state and meet its individual licensing requirements. Nurses can also move to a compact state and then declare that state as their primary residence to receive the multistate license.
Why is there a need for the NLC? As the National Council of State Boards of Nursing notes, prior to the NLC, nursing was operating on a century-old licensure model that was out of touch with modern care demands. The health care system has undergone significant transformation, with a large portion of this change due to advancing technology and changing patient habits. The internet and sophisticated electronic medical records systems enable providers to rapidly exchange information across state lines, and patients are straying from a tradition of seeing one primary care physician their entire lives to seeing a range of specialists, some of whom may be located across state lines.
As stated in the model language of the NLC: "The expanded mobility of nurses and the use of advanced communication technologies as part of our nation's health care delivery system require greater coordination and cooperation among states in the areas of nurse licensure and regulation."
Because of these and other changes, providers need to be able to quickly and efficiently deploy the best health care professionals for patients' situations, no matter where they are located. However, with traditional licensing, a travel nurse would have to go through a lengthy and often expensive process to become licensed in each state he or she travels to. A multistate license can reduce costs for both nurses and their employing organizations while also enabling faster care.
In addition, the multistate license supports expanded telehealth services, helping to reach high-need remote patient populations, and reduces barriers to online nursing education. It can also support quicker and more comprehensive medical response to emergencies.
"A set of changes are on the way that will create the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact."
Changes to the NLC on the way The Nurse Licensure Compact first went into effect in 2000, with updates made in 2015. Now, a set of changes are on the way that will create the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, or eNLC.
There are 11 new requirements that nurses hoping to receive their multistate license must comply with. The new model also standardizes the individual, state-level requirements for receiving a multistate license, according to the NCSBN.
The implementation date for the eNLC is January 19, 2018. As of July 2017, 26 states had enacted legislation for the new model, which makes the eNLC effective, according to the NCSBN, with states that were previously members having to update their laws to be enrolled in the new program. The first states in 2017 to enact the eNLC were Utah and Arkansas. One such state is New Mexico, and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said that the state legislature will pledge bipartisan support toward implementing the new standard, local NBC affiliate station KOB 4 reported.
"Adoption of the eNLC is an issue both parties recognize as being critical for our healthcare professionals in New Mexico, and we fully intend to address and pass it as soon as the session commences," said Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle.
The legislation presents an opportunity for a greater number of states to join the eNLC and help create a network of accessible care for patients in need.