Massachusetts nurses are licensed by the Board of Registration in Nursing. The Board currently boasts 139,688 licensees with active status: 118,330 registered nurses and 21,358 practical nurses.
Massachusetts is not a member of the nurse compact. A nurse must have a Massachusetts license to practice within the state; the Board notes that this includes providing electronic services to Massachusetts patients. Nurses licensed in other states may apply for a Massachusetts license by endorsement.
First time nurses take the NCLEX national licensing exam after completing their education. Massachusetts RN candidates had a first time pass rate of 90.50% in 2011, just above the national average of 90.34%. LPN candidates had a first time pass rate of 90.64%, well above the national average of 84.23%. Pass rates are also listed by individual school (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/researcher/physical-health/nursing/nclex/).
There are several professional organizations in the state. The Massachusetts Nurses Association is the third largest professional organization in the country. Its philanthropic arm, the Massachusetts Nurses Foundation offers a number of scholarships to nursing students (http://www.massnurses.org/about-mna/mnf/scholarships).
The Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses is the state affiliate of the American Nurses Association. MARN offers small scholarships as well. The Massachusetts Student Nurses’ Association provides additional leadership opportunities and educational resources (http://www.mastudentnurses.org/). Although Massachusetts professional organizations are geared toward RNs, there are resources for LPNs at the national level.
A prospective LPN must enroll in an approved nursing program. The Board has a list of approved in-state nursing programs (http://www.mass.gov/approved-registered-and-practical-nurse-programs.html). The Board also maintains a list of nursing programs that are not approved but may try to recruit (http://www.mass.gov/nursing/education/illegal-nursing-programs.html). The Board notes that graduates are not eligible for licensing.
Read "Choosing an LPN Program in Massachusetts" to gain a better understanding of the LPN program education requirements and process.
An RN student who withdraws in good standing is eligible to take the PN test provided the candidate has completed coursework equivalent to that found in a practical nursing program. There must have been at least 945 hours of combined theory and clinical practice in five required areas, 540 of them in clinical practice. Total hours should be no less than 1,080. There is a form which will determine eligibility (https://www.pcshq.com.pdf). Nursing students who withdrew more than five years in the past are not eligible.
The Massachusetts Board contracts with Professional Credential Services for the application process. Candidates may visit their webpage to get applications and receive instructions (https://www.pcshq.com/?page=health,MA-examination). Applicants are required to read the relevant Massachusetts statutes and regulations – they can be downloaded from the PCS site.
Candidates will also need to register with the testing company. This may be done by web or by telephone (866-496-2539). There is also a registration form in the candidate bulletin. Materials can be accessed at http://www.pearsonvue.com/nclex/. Registration is not the same thing as actually scheduling an exam – this step should be done at the onset.
Candidates should be aware that the exam costs $200. After registering, candidates should mail their application to PCS with a separate $230 fee.
If everything is in order, the applicant may get Authorization to Test in as little as a few days.The candidate may schedule the exam, but must take it within 60 days. If the candidate doesn’t, the candidate can get another authorization, but the candidate will have to follow the same steps as the candidate would if the candidate failed the exam (https://www.pcshq.com/?page=health,ureexaminationprocessu).
Candidates who pass will be able to verify their license on the Board site a few days later (https://checkalicense.hhs.state.ma.us/). Candidates who do not pass will receive diagnostic information. They will not be able to test again for 45 days, but may register right away if they choose.
LPNs can be licensed by endorsement if they meet the following requirements. They must have done one of the following 1) graduated from an LPN or RN program approved by the Board in another state or US territory or 2) withdrew from an RN program while in good standing. They must have passed the required licensing exam. Evidence of good character is another requirement. An applicant who answers “yes” to any of the screening questions must send supporting documentation.
Endorsement applications can be found on the site of Professional Credential Services (https://www.pcshq.com/?page=health,MA-reciprocity). A fee of $275 is to be paid to PCS.
A prospective RN must attend a Board approved program. There are a number of professional nursing programs approved within Massachusetts, including associate, baccalaureate, diploma, and direct entry masters (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/quality/boards/rnnecpro.pdf). A candidate may attend a comparable program located in another state and approved by the Board of that state; however, the candidate may not attend a school that appears on the Board’s list of non-approved programs.
"Choosing an RN Program in Massachusetts" offers several additional resources to learn about selecting an appropriate professional nursing program.
After graduation, the candidate will make two applications, one to the company that administers the NCLEX-RN (http://www.pearsonvue.com/nclex/) and one to the company that the Massachusetts Board contracts with to handle applications. Applications and detailed instructions can be found on the site of Professional Credential Services (https://www.pcshq.com/?page=health,MA-examination).
Although most materials are to be sent to PCS, a candidate who answers “yes” to any character screening questions will send supporting documentation straight to the Board for review.
Application will cost $230. NCLEX registration will cost $200.
These two steps should be completed at about the same time. If the applicant provides Pearson with an email, the candidate may get Authorization to Test in as little as a couple days. Exams are computer adapted and can be scheduled at the applicant’s choice of testing sites, either in Massachusetts or another state.
A candidate who fails the NCLEX-RN must wait 45 days before doing a retake.
A nurse who has been licensed, or is currently licensed, in another state may apply for licensure by endorsement. License verification is required; in some cases, this may be done online. Licensure by endorsement costs $275.
International candidates should have high school education that is separate from their nursing school education. RNs are eligible to pursue the CGFNS2 Qualifying Examination Certificate or VisaSceen Certificate. (A CES report is also acceptable if it includes details about science and nursing courses.)
Canadian candidates may instead submit evidence of having graduated from a Board approved program – the Board will accept Canadian programs, though candidates will still need to pass the required exam. There is a Certification of Graduation form in the Canadian application package that includes questions about program approval and language of delivery and examination; there is a $50 fee for processing the form (https://www.pcshq.com/?page=health,ueducatedoutsidetheusu).
International candidates must also demonstrate English proficiency. Those who did their nursing education in English are considered proficient. There are multiple English proficiency exams for candidates to select from if their education was in another language.
International Graduates will submit a Certification of Graduation to PCS. If the candidate is deemed eligible, the candidate will be sent an application for licensure by examination and will be able to register for the NCLEX. There will be additional fees at this stage.
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