When a Kentucky nurse becomes licensed to practice in the Bluegrass State, they can opt into the opportunity to work in many other states through the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), of which the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a member. The benefits of multistate nursing licenses have come into public awareness because of the emergency need for visiting nurses from other states during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Permission to practice in other compact states
A majority of U.S. states and territories are compact states. Multistate licenses are issued through member states’ licensing Boards/Commissions for their residents. A nurse with an NLC license can practice in their primary state of residence where they got their original licensure as well as in other compact states without obtaining state licenses there (including through telemedicine). Instead, nurses with NLC licenses get a privilege to practice in other compact states.
To accomplish this, member states have standardized their licensure requirements, including background checks.
Role of the Kentucky Board of Nursing
The Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) is the state agency responsible for issuing, monitoring and renewing nursing licenses as well as for nurse discipline for unprofessional, unsafe or illegal conduct that can impact licensure. A nurse who is a Kentucky resident would obtain licensure to practice in Kentucky through the KBN. As a license applicant in a compact state, that nurse may apply for an NLC multistate license as part of the KBN licensing process.
State boards share disciplinary information
Nurses with NLC licensure when working in other compact states must understand and comply with those states’ nursing practice laws (Nurse Practice Acts). If you are a Kentucky nurse working in a compact state under a privilege to practice through your NLC license, that state can discipline you for ethical or legal violations, up to revocation of your practice privileges there.
In that scenario, that state must then report the disciplinary action to your home state board/commission. The KBN may also take disciplinary action against you for the incident that occurred out of state, up to and including loss of your Kentucky license.
All NLC member states’ boards of nursing (and some nonmember boards) include their nurse licensing and discipline data in a national database called Nursys. This database is available to nursing employers and state boards.
Protect your license
Defend your Kentucky nursing license and your permission to practice in other states under the compact. The bottom line for a nurse with a multistate license is that at the first indication of a complaint, investigation or potential discipline, get experienced legal assistance with building a strong defense, including launching your own investigation and negotiating with employers and state officials, as well as with advocating on your behalf at administrative hearings and in court appeals, if necessary.