California is a great place for travel nurses to be licensed. The state’s population is over 37 million and accounts for more than 10% of the nation’s total population. A large population means more hospitals and more potential travel nursing jobs. In addition, California has something for everyone. It’s got some of the greatest cities in the world, a swath of rural communities and quaint small towns, beaches, mountains, and even desserts. So, as a Registered Nurse, how do you obtain your California RN license by endorsement?
[Update 2/24/2014: The California Board of Registered Nursing is currently experiencing some major problems with its licensing process. This is affecting all new licenses including California RN licenses by endorsement. Please follow this link to read more about the problems. You can also view the comments below this blog post to see what others are going through.]
There are essentially 2 paths you can take, the long path and the short path. The difference between the two rests largely with the fingerprinting process. You see, California requires that they receive the results from a federal Department of Justice (DOJ) fingerprint check before they will issue any license, temporary or permanent. There are two ways to get your fingerprints checked.
The first, which is the long path, is to request a fingerprint card from the California Board of Nursing (CBON). They will send you a paper fingerprint card with all the applicable instructions. You will go somewhere that provides fingerprinting services, like a local police station, where you will be fingerprinted the old fashioned way. You will then mail the fingerprint cards back to CBON along with all the other required documentation (discussed below). The CBON will then mail your fingerprint card to the Department of Justice who will run the fingerprints and report back to CBON.
You can probably already see why this is the long path. Snail mail and bureaucracy are involved on multiple levels. This process is the reason that CBON quotes 6-8 weeks from the time they receive your completed packet to issue your license. To make matters worse, the old-fashioned ink on paper fingerprint method is imperfect. I’ve experienced several cases in which the nurse’s fingerprint was smudged and therefore unreadable by the DOJ’s fingerprinting system. Of course, you don’t find this out until the fingerprints have been run and the results have been sent back to CBON. This can be a huge delay. So, if you choose this route, be very careful with your fingerprints. Allow them to dry before stacking them or inserting them in to any sort of packaging.
The second way to get your fingerprints done, which is the shorter path, is via Livescan. This is the modern version of fingerprinting. Your fingerprints are read electronically and the results are received immediately. As a result, you could have your license in less than a day as long as the rest of your paperwork is in order (10/20/2013, update: The California Board of Nursing is not currently issuing Temporary Licenses by endorsement at the board’s front counter due to technical difficulties). The catch is that you must be in California in order to get the Livescan completed. To be clear, you cannot perform the Live Scan outside California. You can obtain the LiveScan form for an RN license by endorsement here.
2-7-2014, Update: We have received numerous reports of delays in processing temporary California RN licenses by endorsement even when LiveScan fingerprinting is submitted with all other required documentation. We’ll be paying a visit to the California Board of Nursing next week to inquire. In the mean time, please factor this information into consideration when reading the information herein.
You would also need to find a Livescan location. They aren’t everywhere, so make sure you know where you’re getting it done before you make your plan. Finally, you can also walk in to CBON in Sacramento and obtain the Livescan form in person. There is a Livescan location a few blocks from CBON where you could complete the process. You could then return to CBON where you can request to obtain your license. If you elect to do this, then you should get started early in the day to ensure there’s time to complete the process before CBON closes for the day.
No matter which path you select you’ll need to complete the Application for Licensure by Endorsement. The application can be printed from CBON’s website. You’ll also need a recent 2×2 passport style photograph. These can be quickly obtained at many places including most FedEx Office stores. You’ll also need a Verification of License for your home state license. In the vast majority of cases, this will be accomplished on Nursys, which is the online license verification system used by over 46 states. If you’re in West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, or Connecticut, then you’ll need to check with your respective state’s BON regarding license verification because these states do not participate in Nursys. Everyone else can use Nursys which is available immediately. Again, all of the items listed in this paragraph must be accomplished regardless of the fingerprinting path you select.
How you approach the rest of the process should be determined by which of the two fingerprinting paths you select. If you’re looking to get your license immediately and are going with the Livescan, then you should get your temporary license first. A temporary license allows you to obtain a temporary license to practice before CBON receives your official college transcripts. For most people, the college transcripts are the only other document, besides the fingerprints, that can hold up the process.
You’ll need to contact each school you attended as part of your nursing degree and request that they transmit official copies of your transcripts to CBON. This happens promptly in most cases, typically within two weeks. However, snail mail and bureaucracy are involved so there can be hiccups. In any case, if you are going to go with the Livescan to get your license quickly, then it’s worth it to file for the temporary license to avoid any mishaps with the transcripts. You’ll still need to send the transcripts in order to get your permanent license; you just won’t have to wait for them to be verified.
If you are going to go with the standard fingerprinting and the long path to licensure, then there’s no point in obtaining a temporary license first. This is because your college transcripts, and the rest of your documentation, should be logged well in advance of your fingerprints. It simply takes less time for the transcripts to be verified than the standard fingerprints to be returned from DOJ. However, I advise that you stay on top of both the schools and CBON with respect to the transcripts. Call them weekly until they verify the transcripts have been sent or received.
The final consideration in obtaining your California RN license by endorsement pertains to prior convictions and disciplinary actions. There is no steadfast rule on these issues. They are reviewed on a case by case basis. My recommendation is to go with the long path to licensure unless you reside in California already. There’s no telling how long such issues can delay the process. If you are out of state, then paying extra for a temporary license and going through the hassle of being present for the Livescan will most likely not be worth it if you have prior convictions or disciplinary actions.
Let me know if there’s anything I left out and let me know if you have any questions or concerns!