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Hot Topics in Nursing - Getting Licensed Post Graduation

Grad Shares Tips on Getting Licensed Post Graduation

Bureaucratic red tape makes it challenging to get a nursing license

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Written by Dana Brandorff on March 21, 2022

Christopher Battelli graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado College of Nursing in December 2021. Before graduation, Battelli’s girlfriend was applying for admittance into fellowship programs and was accepted by Stanford Hospital in California. Their plan was to move from Colorado to California immediately after Battelli earned his BSN. He would apply for jobs as a nurse, and she would begin her fellowship. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Should be simple especially if you graduate at the top of your class. And with the shortage of nurses, you’d think states would process licenses quickly.


Christopher Battelli, (BSN ’21)

Battelli had heard horror stories about getting one’s license, especially in a different state. According to National Public Radio and a recent examination of license applications, “nurses fresh out of school and those moving to new states often get tangled in bureaucratic red tape for months, waiting for state approval to treat patients.” NPR analyzed licensing records from 32 states and found that almost 1 in 10 nurses who were issued new licenses last year waited six months or longer. More than a third of these 226,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses waited at least three months.

Battelli was no exception. He started the process in November with the California State Board of Nursing – a month before his graduation. For months he called; actually logging 70 calls/contacts with the California State Board of Nursing. In the meantime, he interviewed with Stanford and was offered a position, which would start on March 21, 2022. The position was on condition he pass his NCLEX (a national nursing exam) and be licensed in California. To obtain a license, you must graduate from a nursing program, obtain your transcripts, and apply with a state board of nursing program for an authorization to test. This authorization is dependent on confirmation of BSN and background check clearance. Once granted, you must pass the NCLEX. You register for this exam on your own once authorized to test by your state board of nursing.

License Process:

First, you must graduate from a nursing program, then you start the RN licensure process. A part of the process is passing a national exam called NCLEX, which can be taken anywhere in the US and undergoing a background check. There are several steps in getting an Authorization to Test number - this is the 'golden ticket' for scheduling the NCLEX exam once the State Board of Nursing applicant has been approved.

Typical timeline in Colorado:

  1. Student graduates
  2. 1-2 weeks after graduation, official transcripts are posted with degree confirmation
  3. Students can then complete the Colorado State Board of Nursing application as the state board needs the official transcript for the application to be complete.
  4. After a student completes the State Board of Nursing application, the State Board then needs to approve the student to take the NCLEX. This is anywhere from 1-2 days to 1-2 weeks. It depends on the processor at the State Board, as well as the application itself. For example, a name change might delay the processor from approving the application as they would need to contact the applicant for more information.
  5. Once approved, the student gets their authorization to test number and can schedule their NCLEX. If you need a date fairly soon, and a date is available in another state, you have the option to go to the other state to take the exam. If you are not in a hurry and want to test in Colorado, you may have to wait a little longer as testing sites are limited, but this is the student's choice.
  6. In Colorado, once you take the NCLEX, your results are reported to the State Board of Nursing in 24 - 48 hours. This is confirmation that you are officially licensed as an RN. The hospitals look at the State Board of Nursing webpage to confirm the person has their official license to practice

In Colorado, it is possible to receive the license in as little as two weeks. Just look at Battelli’s results.

For Battelli, December, January, February all came and went without authorization to test, completion of his background check, or even confirmation of his BSN. He started getting worried. So, he pulled his application in California (losing $400 application fee) and began the process in Colorado to obtain a Colorado RN license that could then be transferred to California, giving him access to a temporary California License.  Within 24 hours of applying in Colorado, he had his background check cleared and had a test date scheduled. Within hours of receiving his test results, the Colorado Board of Nursing granted him his RN license. The Colorado process took a total of 11 days. He then went back to the California State Board and paid another $200 to submit documentation for his temporary license in the state and an additional $400 to apply for his full California RN License.

Battelli’s Advice:

  • Start early. Way early. Especially if you are trying to get licensed in one of the states that seem to be having issues.
  • Be persistent. Call and email. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to/email a supervisor
  • Consider sending paper transcripts versus electronic. Electronic transcripts, while convenient, will often expire if not downloaded by the receiver in a timely manner. This is especially important if you are sending transcripts from multiple institutions.
  • Document everything.
  • If you are moving to a state where licensing seems to be taking months, obtain a license in Colorado, then submit a license by endorsement application in the state you are moving. This moves faster and often gives you access to a temporary license.

“I wish I had just gotten my license in Colorado to begin with. I wouldn’t have wasted money or time on my application in California,” says Battelli.

Topics: Alumni, Hot Topic