If you decide to practice nursing in the United States, whether at the practical, registered or advanced level, a nursing license is required in every state. The licensing authority rests within those states, but any nurse must also initially pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). License renewal requirements may differ among the three levels of nursing. Beyond that, each individual state sets its own licensing renewal criteria.
Although nursing license renewal requirements vary by state, most share similarities. State licensing boards want nurses to stay on top of professional advancements. To ensure this, some boards require a minimal amount of continuing education credits (CE), a minimum number of hours worked as a registered nurse, a recertification exam, academic course(s) or some combination of the above. Nurses convicted of certain crimes must go through a reinstatement process in most states. Those states requiring license renewal specify that it should be completed in a certain time frame. Most states have an online renewal process, and a nurse's date of birth is often used as the renewal date.
Examples from Selected States
Comparing a few representative state requirements illustrates differences and similarities for a nursing license renewal. The following information is for renewal of a registered nurse license, and may be different for nurses at the practical or advanced levels.
- California requires license renewal every two years and charges a $140 renewal fee. Every two years, a nurse must complete 30 contact hours of continuing education.
- Pennsylvania shares similar requirements. This state also requires renewal every two years and 30 hours of continuing education, but the application fee is only $65.
- In Mississippi, nurses must renew their license every two years as well. The fee is $100, but the only requirement is that you have been a nurse, active or not, for at least five years.
- A renewal fee of $65 for the license and an additional $65 for any specialty authorizations is required in Georgia every two years. There are no continuing education requirements.
- Florida not only requires 24 hours of continuing education every two years, but also specifies the subject matter for a portion of those credits. These include one hour of medical error prevention and one hour of HIV/AIDS education. Every third renewal period, two hours of domestic violence education is mandatory.
- 24 hours of continuing education every two years is necessary in Oregon. A one-time requirement of seven hours of education in pain management is required. An additional 960 hours of practice as a nurse is also required. The fee is $150.
- Tennessee only requires five years of competency practice and a fee while South Carolina allows you the choice of 30 hours of continuing education, recertification by exam, completion of an academic nursing program or a minimum-hour employment certification.
- South Dakota nurses must have worked either 140 hours in any 12-month period in the past six years or 480 hours within the past six years. If not, they have to take a board-approved refresher course.
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