Illinois RNs and LPNs are licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. Although Illinois is not a Nurse Compact state, nurses may be licensed by examination or endorsement. Those who have taken the required exam elsewhere may be licensed by “acceptance of exam” even if they are not licensed in another jurisdiction.
There are several resources that prospective nurses will want to be aware of. The Illinois Center for Nursing is a government agency, designed to ensure that Illinois has an adequate nursing workforce. Nurses can find a lot of information, including supply and demand in different parts of the state (http://nursing.illinois.gov/ResearchData.asp). The most recent data indicates greater demand than supply at the RN level, but a probable surplus at the LPN level. The National Nursing Database, meanwhile, reports that Illinois has 26, 472 LPNs and 164,501 RNs.
Illinois offers scholarships and loan reimbursement to prospective nurses at all levels, and also supplies information about federal awards (http://nursing.illinois.gov/financial.asp#NURSEEDPGM). The Nursing Education Scholarship (http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/rural_health/rural_NESP_more_details.htm) provides a substantial chunk of money to nursing students who commit to providing direct care to Illinois patients. The greatest number of awards go to students pursuing professional nursing at the associate’s diploma, or bachelor’s level, but at least 10% of the awards fund LPNs.
Another organization to be aware of is the Illinois Nurses Association. This is not a governmental agency and does not handle licensing, but does provide advocacy, continuing education, and other resources. The LPN Association of Illinois is a resource for practical nurses.
An LPN begins by enrolling in an approved program. The department website includes list of LPN programs that are approved within Illinois. The following list is current as of March 22, 2013 (http://www.idfpr.com/dpr/who/schools/NurseSchools.pdf).
Read "Choosing an LPN Program in Illinois" to gain a better understanding of the LPN program education requirements and process.
After program completion, a candidate applies to take the NCLEX-PN test and become licensed. The candidate will need to be fingerprinted and go through a background check. The fingerprinting process can be initiated slightly in advance; however, fingerprints must be taken within 60 days of application.
Examination application materials are to be sent to an outside organization, Continental Testing Services Inc. It is possible to apply online (http://www.continentaltesting.net/ProfDetail.aspx?Entity=2&ProfID=11). The application fee is currently $91, as noted in the written version of the LPN application packet (http://www.idfpr.com/Renewals/apply/forms/lpn-ex.pdf).
The prospective LPN will also need to register to take the NCLEX-PN examination. There is a candidate bulletin available on the NCSBN site (https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm). Candidates should be prepared to pay $200 to test. They must wait to receive an authorization to test (ATT) before scheduling an exam. Exams are computer adapted and are offered on an ongoing basis.
The licensing process may take some time. An applicant who passes the exam can expect a letter saying the candidate can begin work under direct supervision as a “license pending” practical nurse.
The exam can be retaken if necessary. An LPN must pass it, though, and complete all other licensing requirements within three years of initial application.
LPNs or LVNs who hold active licensing in another U.S. jurisdiction can apply by endorsement. They will need to get license verification from any state where they hold current licensing or have practiced within the previous five years. They also need verification from the state they were first licensed (if different). Endorsement candidates apply directly to the Illinois Department (http://www.idfpr.com/profs/info/Nursing.asp).
Applicants from outside the U.S. will need to have their education evaluated by one of the approved organizations listed in the application packet (http://www.idfpr.com/Renewals/apply/lpn.asp). They will need to demonstrate English proficiency if English was not their first language.
Prospective RNs should enroll in approved programs that include at least two years of study. A list of approved Illinois programs can be found on the department website (http://www.idfpr.com/dpr/who/schools/NurseSchools.pdf).
"Choosing an RN Program in Illinois" offers several additional resources to learn about selecting an appropriate professional nursing program.
The approval process is an ongoing assessment of quality. Programs are placed on probation if their graduates have less than a 75% pass rate two years in a row.
After graduation, a candidate will apply for examination and licensing. The candidate can do this online; the application and $91 fee is remitted to an outside agency, Continental Testing Services (http://www.continentaltesting.net/EntityProfession.aspx?Entity=10). It is also possible to use a paper application (http://www.idfpr.com/Renewals/apply/Rn.asp).
A candidate needs to submit proof of graduation before they can be authorized to take the exam. An official transcript will eventually be required, but if it’s not available yet, the candidate can hasten the process by providing documentation from the nursing program.
Fingerprints are required unless the candidate is already licensed as an LPN. This is a step that a candidate can take in advance – but not too far in advance. The fingerprints must be done in the 60 day period before application. In-state candidates should utilize a vendor approved by the Illinois Department of State Police.
There is a separate exam registration process (https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm). This involves an additional $200 fee.
An Illinois candidate who receives official word that they have passed the licensing exam may practice under appropriate supervision as a “license pending” nurse. The applicant cannot do so, however, until they receives a letter authorizing them to.
Illinois candidates for RN license by examination must pass the licensing exam within three years of the time they first apply to the Board. Otherwise they will be required to do two additional years of nursing school (essentially repeating their education).
Out-of-state endorsement candidates need license verification from their state(s) of licensure. This includes the current state, the original state if different, and any other state in which the nurse has practiced within the most recent five years. NCLEX-RN results may be provided by the state of original licensure or by the testing company itself. Endorsement candidates may be issued a temporary license so that they can begin work before all paper work is processed. The standard endorsement application fee is $50; an applicant pays $75 if requesting a temporary license.
Graduates of programs that did not provide clinical practice concurrent or coordinated with nursing theory (i.e. correspondence courses) are eligible only if one of the following conditions is met: The candidate has actively practiced nursing for at least two full years while licensed in another jurisdiction or has since completed a graduate program that did include concurrent practice. The Illinois Board has specific requirements for coordinated practice as it applies to nursing education. There is an employment verification form in the application packet to be used by nurses who have practiced for two years following a nursing school experience that the Board deems “unapproved”.
Foreign nurses are eligible for Illinois licensing so long as they are licensed in the country where they did their education and meet all other requirements. They must have a credential report from one of two approved agencies. Credentials or license documentation that are not in English must be sent with a certified translation.
If a candidate’s first language was not English, the candidate must take the TOEFL or IELTS Academic Module. The Board may waive this requirement for a nurse who completed an English nursing program or took a licensing exam in English; this is done at the recommendation of the evaluation service. Details can be found in a supplement on the division website (http://www.idfpr.com/Renewals/apply/FORMS/CGFNS_02.pdf). Candidates should make sure information is current. They may email questions to the Board.
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