If you've been away from the workplace for a while and your nursing license has expired, don't despair. Most states have straightforward guidelines for reactivating your license, but you may have to take some continuing education courses, pay extra fees or even pass the NCLEX again. When you're ready to be a nurse again, figure out how to renew your hard-earned license, buy a new set of scrubs and get back to work.
If you want to get back to work as a nurse, contact your state's nursing board. Each state has its own process for reactivating licenses, so don't rely on what you hear from your friends working in other states. The information and paperwork you need will usually be on your nursing board's website, but call or email the board to clarify any questions you have.
If your license expired only a short while ago, you may just need to pay a fee and show that you've kept up with continuing education requirements. Of course, individual state boards have their own definition of "short-term," so don't make assumptions about how long the process takes until you've checked with your nursing board.
If you've been away from nursing for a long time, you may need to demonstrate that your skills and knowledge are up-to-date. You may need to show that you have an active nursing license in another state, take continuing education courses or retake the NCLEX exam. Some states, such as Colorado, have a tiered system that requires additional education in proportion to the number of years since your license expired. The longer you've been away, the longer it will usually take to get your license back. If you live in a state that requires you to retake the exam, look into test-preparation books and classes, so you can pass the test on your first try.
Some states require you to complete continuing education courses as a condition of reactivating your license. Your state board can give you a list of the types of courses that you need to take, as well as a list of approved course providers. Don't take a continuing ed course without first making sure that the provider has approval from your state. Taking a course that doesn't have appropriate approvals is a waste of your time and money.
Nursing boards set fees for reactivating expired licenses, and you may have to pay both a renewal fee and a separate delinquency fee to get your license back. Some states, such as California, exempt military nurses who have been on active duty from extra fees, so if you've been serving in the armed forces, ask the nursing board if you are still required to pay a delinquency fee.
- Indiana Professional Licensing Agency: Fee Schedule
- New Hampshire Board of Nursing: Continuing Competence
- Colorado Board of Nursing: What if my license has lapsed or expired?
- California Board of Registered Nursing: License/Certificate Renewal
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Registered Nurse
- Colorado Board of Nursing: Nursing Board Policy 10-03
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