At some point in a nursing student’s education he or she is introduced to their state board of nursing. Each state has its own bureaucratic body responsible in general for overseeing the business of licensed nursing in that particular state, including licensure, namely the NCLEX family of certification exams.
Where would the nursing field be without governance from state boards?
This is their purpose then to provide guidance and governance for nursing standards on a state level. Trivia: The North Carolina Board of Nursing was the first state-mandated board, established in 1903.
A primary job of any state board of nursing or nursing licensing department is to ensure that educational institutions that deliver nursing education adhere to certain requirements. This means: practical nurse programs, community college nursing programs, and any university nursing schools must build a curriculum that adequately prepares student nurses to take the state certification exam. They are also required to meet a specific minimum number of credit hours.
State documentation lists in detail the appropriate guidelines for study by which nurse educators should go when planning curriculum for registered and practical nurse programs.
State nursing boards enforce each state’s Nurse Practice Act, legislative proceedings that detail the responsibilities of nurses at each level of licensure. These Acts also detail the responsibilities of the nursing boards.
Each state nursing board has its own process for licensure. You would typically seek licensure in your home state or the state in which you plan to practice nursing. Should you travel elsewhere you would apply for licensure with that state’s nursing board as well, or in the case of the 23 states that recognize mutual licenses—the National Licensure Compact—you would automatically be recognized as a practicing and licensed nurse as long as you hold a current RN or LPN license.
All state boards of nursing maintain websites and links to licensure, regulations, and more. However, some state nursing board websites are downright difficult to locate on the web, thanks to poorly planned and executed websites. Expect links on websites to be in PDF or Word document format and often difficult to navigate.
Also allow yourself plenty of time when seeking your license. Rare is the state board that does anything on a rush basis. In fact, a few state boards still conduct the majority of their licensure, communication, and document collection via snail mail, which ties processes up even longer.
Best advice: Familiarize yourself with your state board of nursing well in advance of needing licensure or other information. Then when you do need to access the system you will already know where to locate the information you need.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is the governing body for all the state boards. Its primary mission is to solidify the purpose of the state boards by unifying otherwise disparate “voices” so clearer nursing protocols can be formed and maintained.