Nurse licensure is the process by which various regulatory bodies, usually a Board of Nursing, regulate the practice of nursing within its jurisdiction. The primary purpose of nurse licensure is to grant permission to practice as a nurse after verifying the applicant has met minimal competencies to safely perform nursing activities within nursing's scope of practice. Licensure is necessary when the regulated activities are complex, require specialized knowledge and skill and independent decision making.[1]

Nurse licensure also provides:

Nurse licensure also establishes a registry of licensed nurses, hence the term "Registered Nurse".

The first nurse licensure and registration program was initiated in 1901 in New Zealand when the Nurses Registration Act 1901 was enacted into law. The first licensure laws in the United States came in 1903. In the US, applicants must successfully pass the NCLEX exam prior to being granted a license.


In the United States, some states such as Louisiana have sought to loosen licensure requirements as unnecessary barriers to employment.[2]


  1. ^ "About Nursing Licensure". National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Louisiana pushes to reduce 'unnecessary' barriers to employment". PBS NewsHour. 19 October 2022.