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Nurse licensure compacts: Before, during, and after COVID

According to a research paper from the Brookings Institution, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of nurse licensure compacts; these compacts allow nurses to practice in multiple states without needing to obtain a new license for each state. Nurse licensure compacts: Before, during, and after COVID explains that before the pandemic, 34 states joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). During the pandemic, all states temporarily relaxed their licensing requirements to address workforce shortages. Now, some states plan to consider joining the NLC or expanding the scope of their existing compact.

Effects of the Nurse Licensure Compact:

Concerns remain about the impact of the compacts on nursing education and workforce distribution, as well as potential legal and regulatory challenges. The research cited these possible impacts of the Nurse Licensure Compact:

Increased access to care

Nurses who hold a multistate license through the NLC provide care across state lines, of particular importance in rural areas or during emergencies.

Workforce mobility

Nurses with a multistate license move more easily between states without needing to obtain a new license; that ability helps address nursing shortages and provides career opportunities for nurses.

Impacts on nursing education

The NLC could lead to a standardization of nursing education requirements across states, making it easier for nursing schools to offer programs that meet the requirements of multiple states.

Effects on workforce distribution

The NLC could exacerbate workforce imbalances, with nurses gravitating toward states with less stringent licensure requirements.

Legal and regulatory challenges

Potential legal and regulatory challenges exist associated with the NLC, particularly related to disciplinary actions and liability issues.


The authors of the research suggest that policymakers carefully consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of nurse licensure compacts before making decisions about joining or expanding them.

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