Rhode Island Nursing License Requirements

Rhode Island’s nurses are licensed by the Nurse Registration and Nurse Education Board, a part of the State of Rhode Island Department of Health. The National Nursing Database reports that the state has 19,707 nurses: 17,795 RNs and 1,912 PNs.

Rhode Island is a member of the nurse licensure compact states — a lone member in a sea of noncompact border states. With a mutistate license issued by Rhode Island, nurses are allowed to practice through electronic means in distant compact states.

If a nurse who is licensed in one of the border states, or another noncompact state, wants to practice in Rhode Island, the candidate should apply for license by endorsement. New graduates may be licensed upon passing the NCLEX (a national exam) at the correct level.

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The most recent NCLEX Exam posted pass rates are for 2011 to 2012. RN candidates had a first time pass rate of 92.14%; Rhode Island reports that this percentage places the state #11 out of all jurisdictions. LPN candidates had a first time pass rate of 92.59%.

The state’s professional organizations include the Rhode Island State Nurses Association and the Student Nurses Association of Rhode Island. SNARI and RISNA cooperatively offer scholarships. The Rhode Island Foundation also has several nursing scholarships and a lot of general academic scholarships (http://www.rifoundation.org/Scholarships/ScholarshipOpportunities).

LPN Requirements in Rhode Island

LPN Education

An LPN must have a high school diploma or GED, plus nursing education. Generally, individuals earn their practical nursing license by earning a certificate or diploma from an approved practical nursing program. However, Rhode Island will also license individuals who have done equivalent coursework in an RN level program.

Application Process

After the candidate completes their education, the candidate should request an official transcript.

The candidate should then go to the following address for information on registering for the NCLEX-PN exam: http://www.ncsbn.org. The Board asks that this step be completed before application.

The candidate will also need to have fingerprints done and request a state and national criminal background check. The Office of Attorney General (AG) page gives details about the process: http://www.riag.state.ri.us/homeboxes/BackgroundChecks.php. The results must be sent straight from AG to the Board.

The candidate should have a passport type photograph taken of the head and shoulders — the candidate will need it to attach to the application. The application itself is available on the Department of Health site (http://www.health.ri.gov/licenses/detail.php?id=231). It includes a checklist with steps to check off. A $45 fee must be included. The application package must be sent in the mail (not hand delivered).

The practical nurse may be granted authorization to practice as a Graduate Practical Nurse, or GPN, for up to 90 days. the candidate must work under the supervision of a licensed professional nurse. During this time, the candidate must take and pass the NCLEX-PN. If the candidate passes, the candidate will be licensed. If the candidate fails a NCLEX attempt, though, the candidate will lose this privilege.

The Rhode Island Board allows unsuccessful candidates to retake the exam an unlimited number of times — subject only to regulations put in place by the National Council of Boards of Nursing. There will, however, be additional fees incurred.

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Out of State LPNs

A practical nurse who is licensed in another state, or in DC, can apply for license by endorsement. The candidate will pay the same application fee ($45) but use a different application packet. The candidate will need license verification from all states where the candidate has held licensing. The candidate will also need to have an official transcript sent to the Board. The candidate will have a fingerprint-based background check.

A nurse who holds a current license in good standing in another jurisdiction will be permitted to practice for up to 90 days before a permanent license is issued.

A foreign LPN can be granted a license if the credentials are found to be equivalent. The candidate must show that the candidate has a high school education as well as nursing coursework completed in a government approved school. The candidate should have nursing coursework evaluated by one of the services approved by the Rhode Island Board.

RN License Requirements in Rhode Island


The candidate should enroll in an approved professional nursing program. Afterward, the candidate will take steps toward licensure.

Application Process

If the candidate does everything correctly, the candidate will be authorized to work as a Graduate Professional Nurse, or GN, while the candidate is waiting to take the NCLEX-RN. This authorization is not multistate — in order to receive multistate privileges, the candidate will need to pass the exam. A nurse cannot work as a GN for a period exceeding 90 days.

Before the candidate even applies to the Board, the candidate should register for the exam and pay the fee. This is not the same as actually scheduling – the candidate will do this later after the candidate been found eligible.

The candidate will also request a criminal background check and make a transcript request. The background check should be done promptly as Rhode Island does not authorize candidates to take the NCLEX until their background has been reviewed.

At this point, the candidate will submit the application and pay the fee (http://www.health.ri.gov/applications/NursingRNLPN-Exam.pdf). An RN candidate pays $135.

A non-routine application will take longer to process. A candidate may be asked to appear before the Board.

If the nurse chooses to work as a GN while waiting to take the NCLEX, the candidate must be under the supervision of a registered nurse. After the test results are received, the candidate will either be issued an RN license or have practice privilege rescinded. A candidate who does not pass may retake The candidate will, however, incur additional paperwork and fees.

Out of State RNs

A nurse who took the licensing exam in another jurisdiction may be licensed by endorsement. The candidate will need to provide official license verification.

An internationally educated RN may be eligible for license by examination if the candidate has credentials evaluated by an approved evaluation service and they are found to be at the appropriate level.

Even if the internationally educated nurse has since applied for, and been licensed by, a U.S. state, the candidate will need to provide evidence of credential evaluation and successful performance on an English language proficiency exam.


Rhode Island Nurse Registration and Education Board

Rhode Island State Nurses Association

Student Nurses Association of Rhode Island

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