By Claire Brocato, feature writer
While a sense of adventure is necessary to “take to the road” as a travel nurse, being
practical and well prepared is also an important part of the equation,
especially when it comes to getting your licenses in order.
steer clear of headaches and potential pitfalls, travel health care experts
advise nurses to decide well ahead of time where they want to accept assignments
and to apply for a license in their target state as soon as possible.
“Nurses who are planning to travel should allow plenty of time to apply for a
new state license,” explained Tammy Nation, RN, vice president of operations at
Colorado-based nurse staffing organization, Medical Express. “Each state has
different requirements for licensure endorsement, and in some instances, the
process can take two to three months or longer.”
Certain states, including Florida and New York, require prerequisite contact
hours, while more than a dozen state boards require notarized copies of nursing
licenses or birth certificates. In some instances, nurses need to provide their
college transcripts or passport photographs, and 12 states now require
fingerprint checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which can take
three months or more to process.
“Timing is critical,” Nation said. “For instance, if a travel nurse wants to
work in Miami a month from now and hasn't even applied for licensure in Florida,
we can’t even consider sending her there because it generally takes a minimum of
six to eight weeks to be licensed in that state.”
encourage nurses who are planning to embark on a travel career to make licensure
their first plan of action,” she said. “If they take that step early on, they
can hit the ground running once they submit their application to a travel
nursing company, and can immediately begin interviewing for assignments in their
desired locations. It saves a lot of time and makes the process much smoother.”
Planning and preparation
matter where you’re planning to work as a travel nurse, your first priority
should be to research the licensing requirements in your desired state,” advised
Julie Nelms, quality management manager at NursesRx, a travel health care company in North Carolina.
you know what is required, you can build time into your schedule for the
necessary verifications, education requirements and other qualifying factors.
good starting point is The National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s Web site.This organization’s site maintains
contact information for all state boards, making it easy to access the
information you need.
travel nursing companies, such as NursesRx, often provide assistance in the
licensure process by sharing important details and explaining the procedure, the
bureaucratic restrictions of the licensing system make it necessary for nurses
to do the legwork themselves and to personally submit the required documents and
nurse applies for a travel position but isn’t licensed in the assignment state
yet, chances are the job will go to a more prepared traveler,” Nelms explained.
Temporary and permanent licenses
Many states will issue a temporary license if you supply
proper documentation from your home licensing state. Even so, this process can
take six to eight weeks. In most states, a temporary license is valid for three
to six months.
Industry experts report that many travel nurses rely on a
temporary license or permit in order to practice in a specific state. However,
some state boards—including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon,
Washington and Utah—do not issue temporary licenses. In addition, many states
will only issue a temporary permit if you apply for a permanent license.
A handful of states have a “walk-through” licensing
policy, a process that allows you to obtain your temporary license within a day
or two, providing you already have an active license in another state. To
prevent delays, travel experts recommend checking with the local board to get
specifics on their exact requirements before applying for a license.
“It’s a good idea to apply for a permanent license when
you apply for a temporary one,” Nelms added. “If you’re planning to travel on an
ongoing basis it will save you time, money and possible hassles further down the
Up until a few years ago, travel nurses had no choice but
to obtain a license in each state where they took assignments. That began to
change in 1997 when the National Council of State Boards of Nursing created the
Nurse Licensure Compact. At its core, the compact is an agreement between
participating states to honor each other’s RN and LPN/LVN licenses, much like
state laws accept another state’s driver’s license.
Established travel nursing companies, including Medical
Express and NursesRx, have credentialing departments that are dedicated to
helping travel nurses keep track of their licenses, including the expiration
dates and continuing education requirements.
“By planning ahead and being proactive, you’ll go a long
way toward sidestepping licensure problems and ensuring a successful and
enjoyable travel assignment,” Nation added.
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