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Nursing Navigator

The purpose of the Nursing Guide is to provide transparency, inform applicants of expected timelines for receiving your license, and outline steps you can take to reduce mistakes and mitigate delays. To provide the greatest clarity on the licensing process from start to finish, we will break it down into three phases, providing estimated times for each stage of the process, and recommendations for how to reduce processing times.

Two of the primary ways to receive an RN license in PA are by exam or by endorsement. Obtaining an RN license by endorsement means you have already obtained an RN license in another jurisdiction. A person is eligible for licensure by endorsement if they graduated from an approved professional nursing education program in the United States or Canada, or a professional nursing program deemed to be equivalent to the program of study required in Pennsylvania at the time the program was completed, and obtained licensure in another jurisdiction by passing the NCLEX-RN or another examination equivalent to the NCLEX-RN. If an applicant has not taken the NCLEX or an equivalent examination for licensure, they are required to take and pass the NCLEX-RN for licensure in Pennsylvania.

Obtaining a RN license by examination for Pennsylvania graduates means that the applicant completed a Board approved RN nursing program, passed the NCLEX-RN, and meets the additional requirements for licensure.

A Registered Nurse (RN) may:

  • perform health assessments;
  • diagnose* and treat patients' responses to diagnosed health problems;
  • teach and counsel patients about their health;
  • execute medical regimens as prescribed by licensed physicians, dentists, certified registered nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants, and podiatrists; and
  • contribute as members of interdisciplinary health care teams and health-related committees to plan and implement health care.

*Nursing diagnosis differs from medical diagnosis in that it includes "identifying and discriminating between physical and psychosocial signs and symptoms essential to effective execution and management of the nursing regimen" only. RNs may not perform medical diagnosis.


Initial Registered Nurse License by Examination Phases and Timeframes

 Accordion ‭[1]‬

Expand AllClick here for a more accessible version
Initial Registered Nurse License by Examination for Pennsylvania Graduates, Phases and Timeframes

Phase I

CURRENT TIMEFRAME:
approximately 3 weeks
in calendar days.

Phase One measures the time between when the Department receives notice of your program completion from your educational institution, and when the Department notifies you that you are eligible to take the exam or that your application is incomplete and we need additional information.

Phase II

CURRENT TIMEFRAME:
approximately 4 weeks
in calendar days.

Phase Two measures the time that it takes for an applicant or third-party entity to respond to the Department with all application requirements, including the Department receiving notification that the applicant has passed the exam.

Phase III

CURRENT TIMEFRAME:
approximately 1 week
in calendar days.

Phase Three measures the time between the Department’s receipt of a complete application including examination results and when a license is issued to an applicant.


Tips for reducing processing time for RN by Examination

To help reduce your processing time, please note the following suggestions and information:  

PLEASE NOTE - Applications for Registered Nurse licensure by examination for Pennsylvania graduates cannot begin to be processed until Board staff receives notice of program completion from your educational institution.

If you submit your application before you graduate, you can reduce your license processing time by doing the following:

  • An official state criminal history record check (CHRC) is required from your current state of residence. For applicants living, working, or completing training in Pennsylvania, your CHRC will be generated automatically as part of your application and the required fee will be included at checkout.
  • In addition to the background check from your current state of residence, you will need to submit official state CHRCs from every state where you have lived, worked, or completed training during the last 10 years. An FBI background check can be submitted in lieu of state checks where you previously lived, worked or trained. No record checks can be dated more than 90 days prior to the date you submit your application.

You are required to complete three hours of Board-approved continuing education on the topic of child abuse recognition and reporting. Learn more about Approved Child Abuse CE Providers. Confirmation of the course completion must be sent directly to the Board from the education provider. When registering for a course, please be sure to indicate that you are applying for Pennsylvania licensure to ensure your confirmation is sent to the Board.

Register for the NCLEX exam with Pearson VUE and pay the required fee: http://www.pearsonvue.com/nclex. All correspondence from Pearson VUE will occur via email.




Initial Registered Nurse License by Endorsement Phases and Timeframes

 Accordion ‭[2]‬

Expand AllClick here for a more accessible version
Initial Registered Nurse License by Endorsement, Phases and Timeframes

Phase I

CURRENT TIMEFRAME:
approximately 1 week
in calendar days.

Phase One measures the time between a submitted application and the Board staff’s initial determination of the application status.  This phase may include license issuance or a follow-up request, in the case of incomplete applications. 

Phase II

CURRENT TIMEFRAME:
2-3 weeks
in calendar days.

Phase Two measures the time for an applicant to respond to the Department with all application requirements.  This phase lasts from the date that a follow-up request is sent to the applicant until all items are received by the Department.  This phase may include education documents, background checks, or completing required training. 

Phase III

CURRENT TIMEFRAME:
1-2 weeks
in calendar days.

Phase Three measures the time between the Department's receipt of a complete application and a licensure decision.



Tips for reducing processing time for RN by Endorsement

To help reduce your processing time, please note the following suggestions and information:  

An official state criminal history record check (CHRC) is required from your current state of residence. For applicants living, working, or completing training in Pennsylvania, your CHRC will be generated automatically as part of your application and the required fee will be included at checkout.

  • In addition to the background check from your current state of residence, you will need to submit official state CHRCs from every state where you have lived, worked, or completed training during the last 10 years. An FBI background check can be submitted in lieu of state checks where you previously lived, worked or trained. No record checks can be dated more than 90 days prior to the date you submit your application.

You are required to complete three hours of Board-approved continuing education on the topic of child abuse recognition and reporting. Learn more about Approved Child Abuse CE Providers. Confirmation of the course completion must be sent directly to the Board from the education provider. When registering for a course, please be sure to indicate that you are applying for Pennsylvania licensure to ensure your confirmation is sent to the Board.

Your school must submit an official transcript identifying the RN education that qualified you for your original RN license, the degree awarded and the date you completed the program. Please request that your school send it directly to the Board.

A verification of licensure from each state or jurisdiction where you hold a license must be received by the Board. A verification of licensure is an attestation from a licensing body detailing the type of license held in other states or jurisdictions, the method by which the license was obtained by, the current status of the license, whether any discipline has been imposed, the education and exam information, if applicable. Request that the verification of licensure documents be submitted directly to the Board. If your state participates in NURSYS, pay the fee at www.nursys.com to permit the Board to access your verification of licensure.



Renewal of Existing Registered Nurse Licenses

On average, renewal licenses for RN are issued within three calendar days.

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Process Overview

How to Apply for a Professional License.

 

What Happens to My Application?

 

  1. Sign in or create account at www.pals.pa.gov

  2. Select the Nursing Board to apply and plain-language questions will appear to help you get started

  3. Application appears – review checklist, upload required documents, follow prompts

  4. Review all information and edit as needed

  5. Pay the required fee and your application is submitted

  6. Keep an eye on your email or get real-time updates at www.pals.pa.gov