The Tennessee Board of Nursing is responsible for licensing RNs and LPNs and setting regulations for their education and practice (http://health.state.tn.us/boards/nursing/). There are currently 30,363 practical nurses and 88,037 registered nurses, according to a database maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Nurses are licensed by exam or by endorsement. Tennessee is a member of the nurse license compact. Nurses who hold residence and licensing in other compact states do not need a Tennessee license to practice there unless they switch their primary residency. The Board recommends that nurses who are moving from other compact states begin the application process beforehand; it is not permissible to practice on the old license for more than 30 days after establishing residency.
Tennessee recognizes provisional licenses granted by the state of Kentucky as conferring authority to practice in Tennessee (http://health.state.tn.us/boards/Nursing/PDFs/Nurs_ProvisionalKY.pdf).
First time licensees must pass the NCLEX, a national exam that is given at two levels. In the most recent reporting period, Tennessee LPN candidates had a pass rate of 91.9%, well above the 84.2% national average. RN candidates had a pass rate of 93.54%, a little above the national average of 90.34%.
The Tennessee Nurses Association is a professional organization that advocates for the professional nursing profession (http://www.tnaonline.org). Although it is primarily for registered nurses, there are also resources available for LPNs. LPN Connect is a program that keeps practical nurses informed and gives them access to a ListServ (http://www.tnaonline.org/pages/lpnconnect/lpnconnect---how-to-subscribe?).
The Tennessee Nurses Foundation has a scholarship program (http://www.tnaonline.org/tnf-main.html). Additional information about state and national financial aid is available on the site of the Tennessee Center for Nursing (http://www.centerfornursing.org/EducationFunding.html).
The Tennessee Center for Nursing is a workforce site that supports nursing recruitment and retention and publishes periodic reports about the status of the profession.
A student should begin by enrolling in an approved program of practical nursing. A list of approved schools can be found on the Board site (http://health.state.tn.us/boards/Nursing/education.htm).
At the close of the program, the student will be given an application packet by the school. Out of state examination candidates can receive a packet by calling the Board at 1-800-778-4123. The candidate will have a criminal background check performed.
The candidate will also need to register for the NCLEX-PN (www.vue.com/nclex). The examination costs $200. Once the candidate’s qualifications have been approved, the candidate will be allowed to schedule an exam. The candidate can opt for the Pearson testing center that is most convenient; the ATT will allow the to schedule anywhere in the country.
Examination is typically the last step. A successful candidate can expect the license to be issued shortly. If the candidate wants exam results sooner, the candidate may get them from Pearson Quick Results. There is a $7.95 fee which will be charged only if the results are available when the examinee accesses the service. (The candidate should be aware that these are unofficial results and accessing them will not expedite the licensing process.)
An unsuccessful candidate may apply to retake the exam. The candidate will receive information through the mail that will help improve the exam performance. The Board may impose additional requirements after a second failed attempt.
LPNs who are licensed in other jurisdictions are eligible for endorsement if they meet Tennessee’s requirements. Among the requirements are having graduated from an approved practical nursing program and having passed the national license examination. In recent years, the only accepted exam has been the NCLEX; applicants can also be endorsed if they passed the SBTPE in an earlier era.
Endorsement applications can be downloaded from the site of the Department of Health (http://health.state.tn.us/boards/Nursing/applications.htm). The applicant will need to include a copy of the nursing transcript and diploma. The candidate will need to have the affidavit that is included in the application packet notarized. A $115 fee is due with the application.
The candidate should have a professional 2 ½ x 2 ½ photo taken within six months of the time the candidate plans to apply – this must be attached to the application. The candidate will obtain a criminal background check following the directions on the Department of Health website (http://health.state.tn.us/cbc/index.htm). Tennessee’s approved vendor is IdentoGO by MorphoTrust. The candidate can schedule the appointment online, or, if the candidate does not have the opportunity, by calling (855) 226-2937. A fee will be assessed. The fingerprints will be sent to the Tennessee FBI through electronic means.
An RN should enroll in an approved program. There are a variety of in-state options: associate’s, baccalaureate, and direct entry master's. Programs approved by other state boards are acceptable if they are substantially similar in content.
Click Here for Approved RN Education Programs.
If the candidate attends an in-state nursing school, the exam eligibility will be communicated to the Board, and the candidate will receive an application packet. If the candidate attends an out of state school, the candidate will use a paper form to verify that the candidate has met degree requirements. The candidate can request an application packet from the Board.
Fingerprinting is a required part of the process. Tennessee’s vendor for electronic fingerprinting is Identogo. (http://www.identogo.com/).
The candidate will also need to register to take the NCLEX-RN (www.vue.com/nclex). The candidate will pay $200. Then the candidate will wait for an ATT which will allow the to schedule.
The Tennessee Board will receive official examination results. Once the license has been issued, it can be verified online.
An applicant who is unsuccessful on the NCLEX may retake it, but Tennessee does place some conditions and restrictions. After a second failure, the Board may, at their discretion, ask the candidate to take additional steps before retaking the exam. Candidates do need to pass within three years.
If an applicant completed a program in registered nursing and was licensed on the basis of having passed the approved nationwide examination, the candidate is a candidate for endorsement. The application packet is available online.
A nurse must list all positions the candidate has held during the prior five years. The candidate will also need a transcript, or copy of a diploma. Official license verification is required as well. Nurses will procure license verification through nursys.com or via paper form, depending on the state where they were first licensed.
Candidates must use an approved Tennessee vendor for fingerprint processing, though in some cases, they will be allowed to have inked fingerprint cards transferred to an electronic form (http://health.state.tn.us/cbc/index.htm).
The Board notes that license verification and criminal background checks must be in before a permit can be issued and that it won’t necessarily shorten the time frame.
There is a $115 fee for license by endorsement. The application must include a 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 photo - it should be professional quality. The application also includes an affidavit that must be notarized.
Internationally educated nursing candidates may call 1-800-778-4123 or email the Board for instructions.
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