There are more than 4.5 million licensed nursing professionals across the country. Before being allowed to work, they needed the approval of local government agencies known as Board of Nursing. These institutions regulate the industry and guarantee the safety of patients.
Boards of Nursing were established around one hundred years ago when the healthcare industry began its expansion. Their purpose is to make sure all nursing professionals have the required qualifications to perform their duties without harming customers. In this article, we explain what role Boards of Nursing play in healthcare, and how to contact them.
What is a State Board of Nursing?
A Board of Nursing, also known as BoN, is a local government institution that oversees the practice of nursing in a state. The responsibilities of a Board of Nursing includes regulating what nurses can do, what is required for them to work, and what qualifications they must have. To accomplish these goals, Boards of Nursing design and issue licenses to qualified nursing candidates, and approve training programs. Nationwide, all Boards of Nursing collaborate to administer examinations.
Each state has its own Board of Nursing. Other territories, such as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands, also have a Board of Nursing. Some states have more than one Board of Nursing. California, Georgia, Louisiana and West Virginia have separate Boards of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN). Nebraska has a separate Board of Nursing that oversees Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN).
Most Boards of Nursing were established at the beginning of the twentieth century with the purpose to standardize the practice of nursing. Nursing licenses were created to protect the public from harm, establishing minimal qualifications for anyone who wished to become a nurse. In 1978, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) was created to help standardize the nursing practice across the country. This institution is made up of all state Boards of Nursing, and its main job is to administer the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a computerized test that all newly-trained nurses must pass before being allowed to work. There are two versions of the test. The first one is called NCLEX-RN and must be taken by registered and advanced practice nurses. The second one is called NCLEX-PN and must be taken by licensed practical and vocational nurses. Some entry-level positions, such as certified nursing assistant (CNA) and home health aide (HHA), do not require this test. However, they must pass other examinations before being allowed to work.
The importance of Boards of Nursing
Boards of Nursing play a critical role in the industry. They design and implement regulations that ensure safe nursing care to patients, avoiding malpractice and harm. Before Boards of Nursing were created, the general public did not have sufficient tools to determine which healthcare providers were qualified to provide safe care. Nowadays, nurses and healthcare providers must comply with strict local and federal regulations that guarantee a minimum level of safety for patients. State Boards of Nursing enforce those regulations, and expand them if necessary.
Boards of Nursing are also important because they issue licenses most nursing professionals require to work. This includes licenses for registered, licenced practical and advance practice nurses, as well as certificates for nursing assistants, occupational therapy aides and home health aides. As of 2018, more than 4.5 million healthcare professionals hold a licensed issued by a Board of Nursing, with more than one million expected to receive one in the next few years.
Another important role played by Boards of Nursing is approving training programs. To receive a license or certificate from the Board, aspiring nurses must complete a state-approved training program. These programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools and some hospitals. The name “state-approved” means that the program meets the training guidelines set by the local Board of Nursing. The list of requirements set by the Board may include specific content in lessons and mandatory practices in a hospital or healthcare facility.
How Boards of Nursing Operate
Boards of Nursing operate based on regulations approved by state legislatures. These regulations were first approved as part of Nursing Practice Acts, which defined the practice of nursing within the state and laid out local requirements for licensure. The main job of a Board of Nursing is to enforce these regulations through administrative rules and proceedings.
To carry out these tasks, the board has a group of members elected by the governor, as well as full-time staff tasked with keeping records, updating procedures and providing assistance and information to newly-trained nursing professionals. The functions of the board are funded by fees paid by licensees. In most cases, those fees are enough to cover operational costs, although some states offer additional funding when needed.
How to contact a Board of Nursing
Boards of Nursing usually have one or more local offices. However, in some cases, these offices may not be available to the public. Florida’s Board of Nursing, for example, has a customer contact center interested parties can only reach by phone. For applications and fee payments, applicants are offered instead a P.O. Box. New York’s Board of Nursing, in contrast, is part of the state’s Education Department and can only be reached by phone.
As a result, contacting a Board of Nursing often requires calling a phone number or sending an email. New York’s Board of Nursing also receives written statements from applicants through the state’s Office of the Professions. Each board has its own contact protocols, so interested parties may find it useful to visit their local nursing board’s website to find out which methods are available.