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What Does a State Board of Nursing Do?

Every state has its own board of nursing to regulate the practice of nursing within the state. It handles specific standards for nursing care, issues licenses, and addresses the nature of the nursing practice within its region. Some states, like California and West Virginia, have two nursing boards, one for registered nurses (RNs) and another for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).

State nursing boards are important for prospective nurses to be aware of because they handle the licensing of new nurses. For existing nurses, the board acts as a governing body, passing down protocol and issuing recertifications. If you are planning on becoming a nurse it’s important to understand state nursing boards, what they do, and how they impact nurses.

What Is a State Board of Nursing?

The state board of nursing acts as the governing body for all nursing practices within a specific state or region. They handle everything from new education initiatives, to issuing licenses. State boards of nursing also interact with state legislatures and make recommendations to better regulate nursing practices. They can also institute new guidelines for nurses, and monitor the overall medical field. These governing bodies have helped to standardize patient care throughout the state, as well as provide prospective nurses with the opportunity to maintain high standards.

Overall practices may vary from state to state, but state boards of nursing are in place to ensure that patients are receiving the safest, most effective care. 

State boards of nursing exist because state legislatures have passed The Nursing Practice Act (NPA), which establishes these organizations to regulate the medical and nursing industry. Boards of nursing then put into practice what state legislatures pass. This can be related to things like qualifications for licensure, important educational initiatives for the profession, and other regulatory aspects of nursing practice.

Overall responsibilities for the state board of nursing include issuing and renewing nursing licenses, evaluating applications for nursing licenses, taking disciplinary actions against cases where licensed nurses have committed crimes, and approving nursing education programs. State nursing boards also handle creating and hosting nursing license exams, providing advice to the state on the current needs of nursing within the region, and regulating the practice in all health care settings.

What Does a State Nursing Board Do?

While state nursing boards handle a wide range of responsibilities, these can be broken down into four main duties. These four duties cover everything from general regulation, reviewing new nursing licenses, to handling disciplinary procedures.

Education: A main focus of state nursing boards is developing curriculum and other programs for prospective nurses so that they can be equipped for the everyday demands of the profession. In addition to regulating nursing schools, these boards also develop programs for current nurses who need to learn new techniques and care methods. 

Practice: The state board of nursing will also provide oversight and influence into general nursing practices. They review existing methods and recommend change, if needed. 

Licensure: By providing a standardized licensing procedure, state boards of nursing ensure new nurses are meeting the quality standards needed for patient care within the state. These bodies also handle the recertification procedures, which existing nurses have to follow in order to keep their licenses up to date to continue practicing within the state.

Discipline: State boards of nursing handle investigations into complaints and even disciplinary action should a nurse be found guilty of violating their duties or professional code. State boards of nursing have the power to revoke licenses where they see fit. This enforces a high standard of patient care and ultimately is in place to protect the public in the case of oversight or negligence.

How to Contact Your State’s Nursing Board

Each state has a nursing board, so the contact information will vary widely. Keep in mind that some states, like Georgia, Louisiana, California, and West Virginia, have two nursing boards. If you are applying for a license, your nursing school may be able to help get you started with working with your state board of nursing. 

If you’re already a nurse and need recertification information, details on educational programs, disciplinary action protocols, or other state board of nursing information, you can find the contact information below.

If you are planning on becoming a nurse, you will have to be aware of the policies and procedures of the board of nursing in your state of practice. Think of the state board as a source for advice and a place to seek guidance and understanding about all things related to your nursing license. 

Justine Nelson

Justine Nelson RN, BSN, has been a registered nurse for over 11 years with experience in home health, community health, school based nursing and healthcare based tech startups. Justine is passionate about developing new and innovative roles for nurses outside of traditional nursing roles. She currently serves as an RN content Specialist for Clipboard Health.

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