What are the Licensing Boards for Nursing?

What is a Board of Nursing?

A Board of Nursing (BON) is a state-authorized body that is responsible for the regulation of nursing practice in that state.

There is a BON in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the four U.S. territories of Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

These BONs carry the responsibility to protect the public health, safety and welfare by overseeing and regulating the licensure of nurses in the state or territory. They establish the requirements that nurses must meet in order to be legally licensed to practice nursing.

Applying for Nursing Licensure

When a graduating nurse applies for licensure, the BON will first examine the application to determine whether the applicant meets all non-test requirements such as graduating from an accredited institution and an approved program in nursing. A criminal background check may also be required.

All BONs require that a graduating nurse from a practical or registered nurse program take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) develops and oversees the conduct of this examination in its two forms--PN or RN. By having a single examination used by every state, the competencies that nurses must have to be licensed are standardized across the country.

Learn Your State's Nurse Practice Act

Every state or territory has a Nurse Practice Act, a law that specifies the qualifications for licensure, the scope of practice allowed, the titles that a nurse may use, prohibited practices and disciplinary actions. These are spelled out for the various levels of nursing practice. BONs establish administrative rules that carry out the Nurse Practice Act. They enforce this law and take action against the licenses of nurses who have violated the law or the established rules.

Licensed nurses are responsible for knowing and adhering to the laws and rules of the Nurse Practice Act and the regulations of the BON. They must keep current their contact information with the BON so that renewal notices can be received.

The websites and contact information for each of the BON in the U.S. as well as international associate members of NCSBN can be accessed here .

Nursing Licenses Across States

If a nurse takes a position in another state, he or she must apply for licensure in that state. There are two practices that facilitate the licensing across states: 1) Endorsement: the second state accepts the licensure decision of the first state upon the applicant's meeting all the licensure requirements of the second state; 2) Mutual recognition: 24 states participate in a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) where nurses licensed to practice in one state can practice in another member state, both physically and electronically. The nurse must adhere to the laws and regulation of the second state.

Violations of the Nurse Practice Act

When a violation of a rule, misconduct or unsafe practice is reported, the BON has the responsibility and the authority to investigate the situation and decide what action should be taken. Disciplinary actions range from a reprimand to probation, restricted practice, suspended practice or to license revocation.

Serious cases may involve criminal conduct such as stealing from the patient, falsifying records, providing treatment that should be provided only by a physician, practicing while under the effects of drugs or alcohol, or physical or sexual abuse. The accused nurse may provide information from his or her perspective, or can choose to be represented by legal counsel.

The Board of Nursing in your state is your link to understanding the standards of professionalism you are held accountable to. It is also a great way to connect with a wealth of information about the nursing profession. Take some time to explore your BON website, and be sure to add them to your contacts, as they are a great resources for all of your nursing profession questions.

If you want to get started in nursing, explore the programs below and request information from the schools that interest you.