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Tennessee Nursing License Requirements

All nurses in Tennessee begin the path to licensure by completing an education in nursing appropriate to the level of licensing sought. The Tennessee Board of Nursing licenses practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners, in addition to other nursing specialties. Continue learning about the steps to earning a license as a practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner in Tennessee by selecting one of the licensing categories below.

» How to become a licensed practical nurse (requires completion of a training program)
» How to become a registered nurse (requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree)
» How to become a nurse practitioner (requires a master’s degree)

4 Steps to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Tennessee

1. Graduate from a Program in Practical Nursing.

To qualify for licensure as a practical nurse in Tennessee, candidates must first graduate from an approved practical nursing program.1 The Tennessee Board of Nursing provides lists of approved practical nursing schools as well as graduate results on the National Council Licensure Examination on its website.2

2. Request an Application Packet for Practical Nurse Licensure.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing does not make applications for practical nurse licensure by examination available online.1 Prospective practical nurses who attended an education program in Tennessee should request an application packet from their school.1 Candidates who attended an out of state school may contact the Tennessee Board of Nursing for an application packet.1

3. Complete a Criminal Background Check for the Tennessee Department of Health.

All first-time applicants for licensure for a Health related board in Tennessee must complete criminal background checks for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.4 The Tennessee Department of Health uses IdentoGO by MorphoTrust USA, a third party identity verification service provider, for all background checks.4 Prospective licensees should visit the IdentoGO website to schedule live scan fingerprinting at an IdentoGO office location.5 Applicants who do not live in Tennessee may request a fingerprint card from the Tennessee Board of Health, which can be completed at a local law enforcement agency.4 The completed fingerprint cards must then be sent to IdentoGO for processing.4

4. Complete Registration for and Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

To earn a practical nurse license, candidates must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). The NCLEX-PN is administered by Pearson VUE, a third party testing company, on behalf of the Tennessee Board of Nursing.1 Prospective examinees should register for the exam directly with Pearson VUE after submitting the licensure application to the Tennessee Board of Nursing.5

Candidates who pass the NCLEX-PN may see licensing results on the Tennessee Board of Nursing within one day of the exam.1 Candidates who are not successful will receive notification by mail as well as a performance report to guide study for an exam re-attempt.1 Unsuccessful applicants will also receive further instructions for reapplication to the NCLEX-PN.1

4 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Tennessee

1. Graduate from a Program in Registered Nursing.

Prospective Tennessee registered nurses must graduate from a program in nursing to qualify for a license.1 Lists of approved registered nurse programs in Tennessee and graduate results on the National Council Licensure Examination can be found on the Tennessee Board of Nursing website.2

2. Request an Application Packet for Registered Nurse Licensure.

Applications for initial licensure by exam for registered nurses are not available online.1 Prospective registered nurses seeking licensure who graduated or are attending a nursing school in Tennessee should request an application packet from the school.1 Those who attended or are attending out of state programs should contact the Tennessee Board of Nursing for application materials.1

3. Complete a Criminal Background Check for the Tennessee Department of Health.

First-time licensure through any Health related board in Tennessee requires that applicants undergo criminal background checks through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.3 A third party identity verification service, IdentoGO by MorphoTrust USA, is used by the Tennessee Department of Health for all background checks.3 Candidates should go to the IdentoGO website to schedule live scan fingerprinting at an IdentoGO office location.4 Candidates living outside of Tennessee may request a fingerprint card from the Tennessee Board of Health and have fingerprint impressions taken through a local law enforcement agency.3 The completed fingerprint cards must then be sent to IdentoGO for processing.3

4. Complete Registration for and Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

A passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is required for registered nurse licensure in Tennessee. The Tennessee Board of Nursing utilizes Pearson VUE, a third party testing company, for the NCLEX-RN.1 Registered nurse candidates should contact Pearson VUE to schedule the NCLEX-RN.5

Applicants who achieve a passing score on the NCLEX-RN can typically see license results through the Tennessee Board of Nursing website within one day of the exam.1 Candidates who do not achieve a passing score will be notified through mail and will receive a performance report to assist in study for a second attempt at the exam.1 Candidates who did not pass will additionally receive instructions for re-applying to the examination.1

4 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Tennessee

1. Become a Tennessee Licensed Registered Nurse.

Nurse practitioners must first acquire an active and unrestricted license in registered nursing before becoming eligible for nurse practitioner licensure.6 This requires that prospective nurse practitioners complete an education in registered nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

2. Complete a Post-Basic Education in Professional Nursing.

Nurse practitioners are only eligible for licensure in Tennessee if they have completed a post-basic education in professional nursing at the master’s degree level or higher.6 The qualifying master’s degree should be in a nursing specialty appropriate to nurse practitioners and issued by an accredited school of nursing.6

3. Earn National Certification As a Nurse Practitioner.

The rules of the Tennessee Board of Nursing require nurse practitioners to hold and maintain current national specialty certification.6 The national specialty certification should be issued by a recognized organization and must be maintained to demonstrate continuing competency and qualify for continued nurse practitioner certification.7 National certifying bodies recognized by the Tennessee Board of Nursing include the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.8

4. Complete the Advanced Practice Nurse Application.

The Advanced Practice Nurse Application is provided by the Tennessee Board of Nursing for nurse practitioner applications. All sections of the application are mandatory, including the Practitioner Profile Questionnaire.8 A professionally taken passport type photograph measuring two and a half by two and a half inches signed across the front, but not in the area of the face, should be included with the application.8 Also note that the Affidavit portion of the application must be notarized, as must the Declaration of Citizenship.8

In addition to the application, evidence of national certification must be sent to the Tennessee Board of Nursing from the certifying organization.8 Candidates should also request that the graduate nursing program attended forward official transcripts directly to the Tennessee Board of Nursing and provide a completed and sealed Advanced Practice Certificate Specialty Program Information section, as found in the application materials.8

Applicants who intend to pursue prescriptive authority and who have completed the requisite education should also request that the graduate nursing school attended complete Part 4, Application for a Certificate of Fitness to Prescribe And/Or Issue Legend Drugs.8 The required education for prescribing privileges includes a master’s degree in a nursing specialty and at least two semester hours of pharmacology in addition to national nursing certification.9 Note that nurse practitioners who acquire prescriptive privileges must register with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prescribe or dispense controlled substances.9,10

Applicants should expect to allow approximately six weeks after an application is submitted for a nurse practitioner certificate to be awarded.8

Tennessee Nursing Associations

Future and current nurses can find benefits by joining Tennessee nursing associations, including employment openings, networking opportunities, and continuing education.

Tennessee Association of Occupational Health Nurses

Tennessee Association of School Nurses

Tennessee Association of Student Nurses

Tennessee Nurses Association

Tennessee State Council Emergency Nurses Association

Tennessee Nursing Salary

Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants 29,520 $22,600
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses 21,890 $36,200
Registered Nurses 55,580 $55,800
Nurse Practitioners 3,940 $88,720

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

References:
1. Tennessee Board of Nursing: Examination Information
2. Tennessee Board of Nursing: Education
3. Tennessee Department of Health: Criminal Background Check Instructions for Health Related Boards Applicants
4. IdentoGO by MorphoTrust USA: Tennessee
5. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
6. Rules of the Tennessee Board of Nursing Chapter 1000-04: Advanced Practice Nurses and Certificates of Fitness to Prescribe
7. Tennessee Board of Nursing: Continuing Competence Requirements
8. Tennessee Board of Nursing: Advanced Practice Nurse Instructions/Application
9. Tennessee Board of Nursing: Prescribing Privileges
10. US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration: Application for Registration Under Controlled Substance Act of 1970