Taking the Nursing Boards

Training to be a nurse is only the beginning of the journey, and once you have completed it, you’ll be able to take your career pathway in many different directions. The key to the credibility of your training and how many doors it opens, are the nursing boards and exams because they prove that you’ve been diligent in your studies and are ready to enter the field.

The responsibility of maintaining and scheduling licensing requirements of nurses is held by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN); whose membership includes the state nursing boards of the fifty states, as well as representatives from other US controlled territories and several other organizations.

The board has as its mission statement that it will “provide leadership to advance regulatory excellence for patient protection” and it’s major roles include:

  • Administering the nursing exams that provide licenses for both licensed and registered nurses
  • Monitoring trends in public policy, nursing education and practice
  • Providing a forum for uniformity in relation to nursing practice and information exchange

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the largest organization for nurses in the USA and it helps maintain the nursing standards across all the states. Each state has its own nursing board. The individual boards set the standard for safe delivery of nursing care in their state. Nurses practicing as registered nurses or licensed nurses must be licensed by the Nurses Board of the state in which they practice.

The State Boards are responsible for defining the scope of practice and continuing education requirements for licensed nurses. If you decide that you want to practice in a state other than the one where you completed your basic training, you should check with the board of the state you want to work in for their specific requirements.

The NCSBN plays a pivotal role in ensuring conformity of standards across all nurse training facilities. One of the ways it does this is by the development and oversight of the NCLEX -RN exam and the NCLEX-LN exam. All who wish to practice nursing must pass this exam in order to be licensed.

Twenty-three states belong to another group, the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This organization offers mutual recognition of licenses that are held by nurses in any of the states covered by the NLC. This recognition allows nurses to use the license they hold in one state in other states, as well. The nurse will be legally bound to follow the scope of nursing practices in the state that they’re working in. Legislation controls the types of regulations that can be passed by member states and these must be agreed to by all member states before the regulations are passed.

Nurses sitting the exams must have completed either a hospital based diploma course, an Associate’s Degree in Nursing course or a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) to be eligible to sit the exam. Overseas nurses who are registered in their country of origin are also required to sit the exams. The exams are administered on contract with a national testing service.

The NCLEX-RN and NCLEX- LN exams are completely computerized. They can be taken at any time of the year once the student has made an application and paid the fee. They will be given the date of exam and an Authorization to take Test Number (ATT). Students who successfully pass the exam are issued a certificate to practice as a registered nurse or a licensed nurse. The scope of the license issued depends on each state’s policy.

The different state boards, the ANA, the NLC and the NCSBN all contribute their expertise to provide the safest possible nursing standards and scope of practice. Nurse training and education is constantly evolving and improving as the groups strive to produce the highest quality and standards of nurse training and practice.


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