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Nursing License Requirements in Washington

Washington’s RNs and LPNs are licensed by the Nursing Commission of the Washington State Department of Health. The National Nursing Database reports 13,040 active LPN licenses and 83,437 active RN licenses.

Washington State does not participate in the nurse licensure compact. However, nurses who are licensed in other states may find endorsement to be a relatively simple process. Washington, furthermore, will expedite the licensing process for applicants who are spouses or domestic partners of military personnel.

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Candidates should be aware that rules do change from time to time. There is a comment period for rules in process (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/RulesinProgress.aspx).

First time licensees are credentialed on the basis of examination. The same goes for international candidates who have not yet passed the NCLEX. The Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission has an approval process for nursing schools operating within the state. NCLEX pass rates of in-state schools are published on the DOH site (http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/6000/669336.pdf).

There are additional organizations supporting the state’s nursing profession. The Washington State Nurses Association is a professional organization that provides educational resources and advocacy . The Washington Center for Nursing is a workforce site. The center keeps track of the status of nursing education, hospital hiring trends, and strategies for transition into practice. The Washington Center for Nursing reports that access to nursing education is best in Western Washington. However, the Rural Outreach Nursing Education program is working to improve access in other parts of the state.

LPN Requirements in Washington

LPN Education

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A candidate will need to do at least 60 quarter hours of coursework in an approved nursing program. If LPN is the end goal, the student should enroll in a practical nursing program. However, the candidate can also meet licensing standards by completing pre-licensure requirements in a professional (registered) nursing program. The course of study must include the coursework mandated by Washington State for practical nursing programs (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?). The candidate may be allowed to complete required work not included in the RN program if the candidate does it through a nursing program approved by the Commission (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-840-030).

There are several factors to consider prior to selecting a practical nursing program. The article, LPN programs in Washington, will help you better understand these factors during your LPN program selection process.

LPN License Applications and Process

Licensing applications are found on the site of the Washington State Department of Health (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing.aspx). An applicant at the LPN level pays a $92 fee with the application (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/FeeSchedule.aspx). The candidate should take note of the two addresses found in the application packet. The candidate will send the application packet and fee to the Department of Health. Additional supporting materials will be sent to the Nursing Commission.

A Washington State program will send verification of completion electronically. If the candidate completed the education in another state, the candidate will use a paper form. This verification is necessary before the graduate can be authorized to take the NCLEX. (An official transcript will be required before the license can be issued.)

If the applicant is applying based on coursework done in a registered nursing program, the candidate must submit an attestation by an administrator.

The Commission recommends that candidates download a NCLEX handbook. This is available on the Pearson site (www.vue.com/nclex) or the site of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Once the candidate has submitted the application materials and all required fees (including the $200 for testing) the candidate will receive an ATT. At that point, the candidate can schedule a computer adapted exam.

The Washington licensing agency typically receives exam results after only 24 hours. The successful examinee will be able to verify the license online soon after. It will be another seven to ten days, though, before a paper copy will be issued.

Examinees who do not pass will receive retake information.

LPN by Endorsement

LPNs with active licenses in other U.S. jurisdictions can apply by endorsement. (Those without current licensing may seek authorization to do a refresher course.)

License verification is necessary and can often be done electronically; this depends on the state of licensure. In many cases, license verification provides verification of education as well. If it doesn’t provide the necessary information, though, transcripts will be required.

Nurses who did their education in prior decades may need additional training in AIDS in order to endorse into Washington.

Candidates with out-of-state addresses will be required to do a fingerprint-based criminal background check. A nurse may be issued a temporary permit pending results of the criminal background check.

Internationally Educated LPNs

Washington State will evaluate the education of foreign LPNs based on transcripts and an educational verification form. An online course, the Personal Vocational Relationship Course, is required.

The TOEFL is required in cases where English was not the primary language. The minimum speaking score is 26; the minimum total score is 79.

RN License Requirements in Washington

RN Education

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There are plenty of in-state options at both the associate and baccalaureate levels. Practical nurses may complete nontraditional LPN to RN programs subject to regulations set by Washington (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-840-035). Individuals who hold degrees in other fields can opt for a direct entry master’s in nursing.

Read the "RN Programs in Washington" article to learn about factors to consider when choosing a Registered Nursing program.

A list of approved in-state programs is available on the DOH site (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NursingPrograms.aspx). So is a list of Washington facilities where out-of-state programs have been authorized to place students to do clinical work.

Applying for RN Licensure

A candidate may register as a nursing technician and be employed in this capacity while still a student. The candidate will need to verify program completion before the candidate can be authorized to take the NCLEX-RN for nursing licensure. An applicant at this level pays an $88 nonrefundable fee (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/FeeSchedule.aspx).

The candidate must also register with Pearson VUE to take the exam (www.vue.com/nclex). The candidate will pay a $200 fee at the time of registration. The candidate will wait to receive the ATT, then schedule the computer adapted exam at their choice of Pearson testing centers.

Assuming the candidate passes, the license will be issued shortly thereafter. The candidate will be able to verify it online sometime before the candidate receives the paper copy.

Education doesn’t end with licensure. The Washington Center for Nursing reports that a number of hospitals have Transition -to –Practice (TPP) programs in place. New RNs are often assigned a preceptor.

Out of State RN Candidates

Washington is currently using a state database to check the criminal history of in-state candidates, but requiring a fingerprint-based check of candidates from out of state. This is the case whether the candidate is applying by examination or endorsement. The applicant will need a DOH fingerprint card; the candidate will receive a packet once the candidate submits the application.

An RN with a current, active license can apply by endorsement. The candidate will also need to provide verification from the first state where the candidate was licensed. If the license verification does not include verification of nursing education, the candidate will request that the school sends transcripts to the nursing commission office.

A candidate may be issued a temporary permit that will allow them to work while the criminal background check is being processed.

A nurse who does not have an active license may be authorized to do clinical training as part of a refresher course.

Internationally Educate RNs

RNs who did their education abroad (and have not since been licensed in the U.S.) will need an educational evaluation performed by one of three approved organizations. If the evaluation service does not send transcripts to the licensing agency, the candidate will have to request that a copy be sent directly from the school. The applicant will also need to attest to having had AIDS training.

Professional and Student Nursing Associations in Washington

Nursing Commission of the Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Nurses Association

Washington Center for Nursing

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