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Rhode Island Awaits Start Date to Nurse Licensure Compact

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   July 14, 2023

The Ocean State became the 39th to enact the NLC.

Rhode Island RNs and licensed practical nurses will now be able to have one multistate license, with the ability to practice in person or via telehealth in both their own state and 38 others that have adopted the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

Though Gov. Daniel J. McKee recently signed legislation making Rhode Island the 41st jurisdiction—along with 38 states, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—to enact the NLC, the state is awaiting implementation with no determined start date.

Implementation must be completed before its residents can apply for a multistate license, and before nurses in other NLC states who hold a multistate license will be able to practice in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island was part of the original NLC which has been operational for more than 20 years, but when the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, a new and modernized version of the language was drafted and approved by boards of nursing in 2015, Rhode Island did not join.

That meant that Rhode Island nurses once again had the burden of holding and maintaining licenses for other states in which they wished to practice, and opportunities to be a travel nurse or remain competitive in a telehealth workforce became limited.

"Our state is grappling with a severe shortage of nurses. Returning to the compact is a way we can make it easier and more appealing for nurses to come here for a job, making it easier for our hospitals and health facilities to fill their staffing needs," said Sen. Joshua Miller, one of the NLC bill sponsors. "Rejoining the compact is good for our public health and safety." 

Licensure requirements are aligned in NLC states, so all nurses applying for a multistate license are required to meet those same standards, including submission to a federal and state fingerprint-based criminal background check.

A multistate license eases cross-border practice for many types of nurses who routinely practice with patients in other states, including primary care nurses, case managers, transport nurses, school nurses, hospice nurses, and more. Military spouses who experience moves every few years also benefit greatly from the multistate license. 

The NLC also benefits facilities that might have an acute shortage in one of their units to recruit a nurse for that unit or shift around their resources if they're an interstate facility and moves nurses between different states, according to Nicole Livanos, director of state affairs at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

Each addition to the NLC helps to strengthen the nursing workforce, she said.

"This sends a broader signal to the other states that are not yet in the NLC," Livanos said, "that the NLC can be part of broader workforce discussions in looking at how to shore up the existing nurse workforce, how to modernize the existing workforce, and how to make sure that your state remains competitive when recruiting nurses."

“Rejoining the compact is good for our public health and safety.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Rhode Island joins 38 states and two U.S. territories that have enacted the NLC.

Though legislation has been signed by the governor, the state is awaiting implementation.

Rhode Island was part of the original NLC but did not join the Enhanced NLC in 2015.

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