Do RNs Have to Renew Their Licenses?

RNs, or registered nurses, are health care professionals who work directly with patients in a wide variety of health care situations and settings. Although RNs often work in hospitals, they may also work in private medical practices and clinics. Licensing ensures that every RN who treats a patient has the appropriate training and skills testing. RNs must renew their licenses at regular intervals.


Each state has its own regulations and policies for licensing registered nurses, either through a dedicated board of nursing or through the state's health department. States control nurse testing, licensure and nurse education programs. RNs are only allowed to practice nursing in states in which they hold valid nursing licenses. A nurse who moves may need to complete additional training or testing to receive a valid license in the new state.


The duration of an RN license's validity varies by state but is generally two years or more. A nurse who completes a nursing education program and passes all state testing receives an initial license, which requires renewal by a specified date. Later licenses are valid for a number of years after being issued. For example, in California, a new nurse receives a license that's valid until the month after the RN's second anniversary of receiving the license. Each subsequent renewal lasts two additional years from the date of issuance.


The process of applying for an RN license renewal involves supplying basic contact information and submitting a fee to the state's board of nursing or department of health. Certain states require RNs to complete continuing education between each renewal date. For example, in California, every RN must be able to show proof of at least 30 hours of continuing education since the last license renewal to be able to renew once again. This requirement ensures that RNs remain aware of changes and advances in health care.


Nurses who renew their licenses on time receive new licenses by mail and may continue to practice without interruption. Those who apply for renewal late may need to pay an additional late-renewal fee or, in certain cases, stop practicing until the renewed license arrives. In other cases, an RN may receive a valid renewed license but with an inactive status due to not yet completing enough continuing education. An inactive license becomes active and allows the holder to practice once the RN has completed all necessary training and education credits.