Act 68 of 2021, the Nurse Licensure Compact Act (NLC), was signed into law in Pennsylvania by Governor Wolf on July 1, 2021 making Pennsylvania the 37th state to become a NLC state. Ohio’s governor also signed NLC into law on July 1, 2021, and now there are 38 states with multi-state licensure acts (National State Boards of Nursing Association. 2021. Nurse Licensure Compact. https://www.ncsbn.org/compacts.htm)
In addition, there are seven states with pending NLC legislation, meaning that by the end of 2021, there could be as many as 45 states with NLC legislation. (Gaines, K. July 7, 2021. Compact Nursing States List 2021. Nurse.org.
Pennsylvania’s nurses were strongly in favor of this legislation and advocated individually and through their professional organizations over the period of time that Senate Bill 115, Nurse Licensure Compact (Senator Boscola) progressed through the Senate’s and House’s committees and the full chamber.
What this means to the existing 229,639 licensed registered nurses (RNs), 51,000 licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs), and all future nursing graduates in Pennsylvania is that they will be able to practice in Pennsylvania and in 37 other states with only one license. Nurses who are eligible can opt to have a multistate license and will only need this Pennsylvania-issued nursing license to be hired to work as a nurse in states that are members of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Act 68 of 2021 Nurse Licensure Compact does not apply to Pennsylvania’s 16,307 Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners. (PA SBN. Number of Active Licensees as of 6/15/2021. https://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/Nursing/Documents/Board%20Documents/Active-Licensee-Counts.pdf)
Nurses are eligible for the single multistate license if they meet 11 uniform licensing requirements (ULRs), which includes holding an active, unencumbered license that has no active discipline. (“What Will the Enhanced NLC [eNLC] Mean for Nurses? [SPECIAL ISSUE | MARCH 2017] Leader to Leader. https://www.ncsbn.org/Leader_to_Leader_NLC_Issue2017.pdf)
Senator Lisa Boscola, who proposed the Nurse Licensure Compact bill that was signed into law, said, “The need for the Commonwealth to become a member of this compact is critical – it’s critical yes for pandemics and disasters – but it’s critical in the long run for our state’s residents. It’s critical to maintain the growing demand of nurses now and in the long term.” (Press release. July 1, 2021) (Press release: July 1, 2021. Boscola Nurse Licensure Compact Bill Signed into Law by Governor Wolf. https://senatorboscola.com/boscola-nurse-licensure-compact-bill-signed-into-law-by-governor-wolf/)
Other advantages for nurses with a multistate license are:
- Employers of all nurses, regardless of the healthcare setting — hospitals, ambulatory care centers, behavioral health settings, home care, skilled nursing facilities, school nurses, etc., will benefit because the nursing staff will now be able to practice (in person or by telehealth) in other eNLC states with just one license obtained in their state of residence.
- All currently licensed registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/ vocational nurses (LPNs/VNs) who have an eNLC multistate license have expanded portability and can easily work in any of the member states, including Pennsylvania’s four border states that are part of the eNLC – New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia. Soon, Ohio will be part of the border states where multistate nursing license holders can work.
- Nursing faculty teaching in online programs can “tele-teach” without the costs and delays of obtaining additional nursing licenses.
- Online nursing education programs cite minimum qualifications to apply for prospective faculty as having a multistate license, thus nurses interested in teaching in these programs will have one less expense, and one less step to take in the application process.
- New nursing graduates who take the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN and identify PA as their home state will immediately have an eNLC multistate license.
- Military spouses who move to Pennsylvania temporarily and who have a multistate license can forgo obtaining a Pennsylvania nursing license and work immediately. (Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders (PONL)Position Statement. May 2021. https://ponl.net/Legislation)
Pennsylvania nurses will need to wait, however, until the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing (PA SBN) promulgates the rules and regulations for Act 68 of 2021 Nurse Licensure Compact. There is no projected date for implementation of NLC in Pennsylvania but it is expected to take months before all of the rules and regulations are in place. In addition, nurses who have multistate licenses from other states cannot use these licenses in Pennsylvania until the implementation occurs. (Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. (2021). Nursing Licensure Guide & Timeline. https://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/Nursing/Pages/default.aspx)
Once the new rules regulations go into effect in Pennsylvania, nurses will be notified and the information will be posted on the PA SBN website. Existing licensed nurses in Pennsylvania will be grandfathered and can choose to have a multistate license. Obtaining a multistate license will not be automatic. Nurse can choose to retain their existing single-state license or apply for a multistate license, and there will most likely be a fee.
Nurse Licensure Compact’s time has come. NLC increases access to quality care, protects patient safety, and reduces costs for nurses. Soon Pennsylvania will experience these benefits when Act 68 of 2021, the Nurse Licensure Compact Act, is implemented.
Mary A. O’Connor, PhD, MSN, RN
Professor Emerita, California University of Pennsylvania
PONL Board Secretary and Legislative Committee Co-Chair