January 25, 2024

Washington State Nursing License Guide for RNs

A nurse in blue scrubs writes on a clipboard using a black pen.

Did you know that Washington state boasts a dynamic healthcare sector with lots of opportunities for registered nurses? Whether you're drawn to the bustling medical community or the state's distinct allure, securing a nursing license in Washington is an essential step for RNs aiming to practice in the Evergreen State.

Table of contents:

Quick reference and resources for Washington state nurse licensure

eNLC: Yes

Walk-Through: No

Temp License: Yes

Nursys: Yes

Washington state’s Board of Nursing website

BON license renewal information

Check your license status

How to apply for a nursing license in Washington state

The process of applying for a Washington state RN license is fairly similar to other states. Luckily, much of the process can be completed online. You can expect to follow these general steps during your application process:

  1. Confirm Eligibility: Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for licensure in Washington state, including having successfully passed the NCLEX-RN exam.
  2. Create an Account: Visit the Washington State Department of Health's Nursing Commission website and create a personal account to begin the application process.
  3. Access Online Application: Log in to your account and access the online nursing license application. Fill in all required fields with accurate information.
  4. Submit Application Fee: Pay the application fee as specified by the Washington State Nursing Commission. This fee covers the processing of your application and is non-refundable.
  5. Fingerprinting and Background Check: Washington state requires fingerprinting and a criminal background check. Follow the instructions provided by the Nursing Commission to complete this step.
  6. Verification of Licensure: If you hold or have held licenses in other states, the Nursing Commission may require verification from those states. Contact the licensing boards to request verification.
  7. Submit Transcripts: Provide official transcripts directly from your nursing program to the Washington State Nursing Commission.
  8. Wait for Application Review: Once all required documents are submitted, wait for the Nursing Commission to review your application. The processing time can vary, so monitor the status through your online account.
  9. Receive Notification of Eligibility: If your application is approved, you will receive a notification of eligibility, indicating that you are eligible to practice as a registered nurse in Washington.
  10. NCLEX-RN Exam (If Required): If you haven't taken the NCLEX-RN exam yet, this step may be required based on the Nursing Commission's evaluation of your education and licensing background.
  11. License Issuance: Upon successful completion of the application process, including passing the NCLEX-RN if required, the Washington State Nursing Commission will issue your nursing license.
  12. Check License Status: Keep a close eye on the status of your license through the Washington State Nursing Commission website. You can track the progress of your application and verify when your license becomes active.

How long does it take to get a Washington state nursing license?

The processing time for obtaining a nursing license in Washington state can vary based on several factors, including the volume of applications, completeness of the submitted documents, and the efficiency of the licensing board's processes. The Washington State Nursing Commission generally aims to process applications as promptly as possible.

On average, it may take several weeks to a few months from the time of submitting a complete application to receiving the nursing license. However, it's essential to note that these timelines can change, and factors such as background checks or verification from other states can add to the processing time.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the current processing times, I recommend checking the official website of the Washington State Department of Health's Nursing Commission or contacting their licensing department directly. They often provide estimated processing times and updates on their website.

How Washington state nursing license by endorsement works

Have a nursing license in another state but want to apply for a Washington state license? You can apply for a license via endorsement. Visit the BON’s license by endorsement page for detailed requirements. You can expect to follow these general steps:

  1. Ensure you meet all requirements: To apply for a license via endorsement, you must have an active RN or LPN license in another state or have completed an approved refresher course.
  2. Have your current state license verified by Washington state
  3. Prepare all forms required
  4. Complete an online application
  5. Pay application fee online
  6. Attach required forms and documents: Any “yes” responses to personal data questions must have supporting documents, such as court documents and written statements.
  7. Submit your application
  8. Watch your email: The BON will email you if there are any issues with your application.

How to renew your nursing license in Washington state

RNs with an active license status can renew their Washington state license online. Some license statuses require renewal by mail or in person at the Department of Health. These include military, inactive, expired, and active on probation licenses. 

When can you renew your Washington state nursing license?

It’s a good idea to start the renewal process before your license expires. You can renew your license online 85-90 days before your license expires. If your license is expired, you can apply via late renewal up to one year after the expiration date. 

What are license requirements prior to renewal?

For RNs, you must complete 8 continuing education hours and 96 practice hours every year. You must also complete the e-Notify registration and survey online on the Nursys website.

What are the steps for license renewal?

  1. Create an online Secure Access Washington account
  2. Add the DOH service code (7472)
  3. Log into the renewal portal
  4. Access your renewal
  5. Complete your renewal
  6. Pay the fee

For more detailed information, see the BON’s online renewal instructions

Is Washington State a compact nursing license state?

Yes, Washington State joined the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) on July 24, 2023. This recent change means that nurses with an NLC state license can practice in Washington state without any further licensure. It also means nurses with a Washington state license can practice in other compact license states without needing to apply for additional licenses. Learn more about the NCL and compact licenses states.

Information around licensing requirements and process is subject to change. It’s advisable to check all licensing requirements and processes via Washington State’s Board of Nursing website.

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