Are you a nurse (or student nurse) who dreams of working and traveling? If so, you need to understand the complicated process of obtaining a license to practice in more than one state — and what it may take to maintain it.

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was developed in 2000 in order to allow nurses to relocate easily and engage in telehealth sessions with patients. It was a quick way to encourage the available workforce of nurses to relocate to areas that were suffering a nursing shortage. Nurses licensed in a state that participates in the NLC are able to legally practice in any of the other 29 states who are part of the agreement.

California is not one of those states. It and the other states that declined to approve the NLC all have similar concerns about state-specific licensing requirements that they fear may not be met by nurses licensed in other states.

For many nurses who travel as part of their profession, this can be more than an inconvenience. It can actually put them on the wrong side of the law if they act in a professional capacity while on the wrong side of a state line.

While a national licensing system would be convenient, it isn’t yet a reality. Nurses wishing to practice in California — even as traveling nurses — must make certain that they meet all the qualifications for a license within the state and obtain that license prior to practicing.

Maintaining your professional nursing license in any state can be complicated. A missed deadline, a forgotten piece of continuing education or a complaint from a disgruntled patient can put your livelihood at risk. If you’re facing questions from the administrative board, don’t try to handle your situation alone.