Our local representatives...were shocked at how difficult and expensive it was for spouses to transfer licenses to their state.
As an RN holding a compact license, I was able to work in Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and South Dakota without any problems, as these states are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact or NLC. It wasn’t until we were assigned to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana that I ran into significant complications. Once we had orders to Barksdale AFB, I contacted the Louisiana Board of Nursing as they are not part of the NLC, and was told I would need to apply for a Louisiana license by endorsement and pay all associated fees.
However, Louisiana policy did not allow nurses to apply for an RN license without having a Louisiana address, which I did not have. In addition, I would not be able to obtain a temporary license without a pending job offer, and to get that temporary license I would have to apply by mail and wait up to 90 days or drive to Baton Rouge (an eight-hour round trip) to obtain a temporary license in person. So at the end of the day, I was not able to even start the process of licensure or job searching in Louisiana without physically being there.
As soon as we arrived in Louisiana, I drove to Baton Rouge and completed all the applications and paid the multiple fees (totaling $250) to obtain my license. After several phone calls for lost transcripts (more fees) and mislabeled applications, I was finally granted an RN license. The process took over four months and several hundred dollars. I received two emails that day, one with the good news my license was approved and active, and another stating it was time to renew my license for another $150 because it was December and all licenses renew in December regardless of the date issued!
I secured a job in Louisiana while stationed at Barksdale but was very frustrated with the licensure process. Many other military spouses shared their stories as well, and I knew the best solution was for Louisiana to join the NLC. My RN co-workers (who were not spouses or affiliated with the military in any way) were also very supportive of Louisiana joining the compact. They felt it would benefit the state and bring nurses more opportunities. I spoke to our local representatives, and they were shocked at how difficult and expensive it was for military spouses to transfer licenses to their state.
As my experience proved, states that are in the NLC make it much easier for military spouses to move around the country and maintain the ability to work immediately, thus providing for their families. The costs to obtain licenses in non-compact states can be a huge burden to most families. Frequent moves are stressful enough without having to wonder when or if a spouse is going to be able to work in the new duty station.
I am proud to say through hard work and support from senior military officials and elected representatives, Louisiana has passed legislation to join the NLC. I firmly believe all states can benefit from being in the NLC, and I hope those without pending legislation will follow in the footsteps of Louisiana to support both military and civilian nurses.