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Washington DC Nursing License Requirements

Nurses in Washington DC are licensed and overseen by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing, a division of the Washington DC Department of Health. The District of Columbia Board of Nursing recognizes several categories of nurse licensure, including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners. To become licensed to practice in Washington DC, all nurses must earn an appropriate nursing education. Learn more about becoming a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner in Washington DC by reading 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 Washington DC

1. Complete a Program in Practical Nursing.

To qualify for practical nurse licensure in the District of Columbia, candidates must have completed an education program for practical nurses either approved by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing or by another US nursing board with substantially equivalent education requirements.1 A list of approved practical nurse programs in Washington DC is available on the District of Columbia Department of Health website.2

2. Submit the Application for Licensed Practical Nursing.

The Application for Licensure By Examination for Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse is the appropriate form to apply for initial licensure by examination.3 Note that applications that can not be read or that are missing required signatures or fees will be returned to the applicant.4 Applicants must request an official transcript, in a sealed envelope, from the school of nursing attended.4 The school may send this directly to the District of Columbia Board of Nursing; however, the Board prefers that the sealed envelope be sent with the original application materials.4 Applicants must also provide two identical, recent passport style photos of the applicant’s face, with the name of the applicant printed on the back; these photos must not be computer or paper copies.4

Note that all materials should be mailed in a 9×12 envelope, and that materials should not be stapled or folded.4

3. Complete the Mandatory Criminal Background Check.

Applicants for nurse licensure in Washington DC must complete a criminal background check.4 This may be done either through MorphoTrust USA, a third party identity service, or the DC Metropolitan Police Department.4 MorphoTrust USA identity services can be accessed and scheduled through its website.5 Candidates who prefer to the complete the background check through the DC Metropolitan Police Department may call 202-442-9004 to schedule an appointment.4

4. Register For and Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

All practical nurse candidates in Washington DC must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to become licensed.4 Registration for the exam is completed through Pearson VUE, a third party testing company.6 After review of the application packet, an Authorization to Test will be issued that allows the candidate to schedule and sit for the exam.4 Candidates who pass the exam and meet all other requirements for licensure will receive a practical nurse license. Candidates who are not successful may re-apply to take the exam using the Application for Licensure by Re-Examination.7

4 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Washington DC

1. Complete a Program in Registered Nursing.

Prospective District of Columbia registered nurses must first complete an education program designed to prepare registered nurses for practice to qualify for licensure. Such a program, if located in Washington DC, should be approved by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing.8 Schools located outside of Washington DC may also qualify graduates for licensure provided that the education is substantially equivalent.8 The District of Columbia Department of Health Website provides a listing of programs that have been approved by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing.2

2. Submit the Application for Registered Nursing.

The District of Columbia uses a dual form for registered nurse licensure by examination, known as the Application for Licensure By Examination for Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse.3 Applicants should check the ‘Registered Nurse’ box on the form to apply for a registered nurse license.3 Applicants should be aware that forms that are illegible or missing required signatures or fees will be returned to the applicant.4 To support the application, the school of nursing attended must provide the District of Columbia Board of Nursing an official transcript in a sealed envelope; although this may be sent directly to the Board, it is preferred that the sealed envelope be sent with the original application.4 Applicants must also be sure to include two identical, recent passport style photos of the applicant’s face, with the name of the applicant printed on the back; these photos must not be computer or paper copies.4

Note that materials should not be stapled or folded, and should be sent in a 9×12 envelope.4

3. Complete the Mandatory Criminal Background Check.

All prospective registered nurses must undergo a criminal background check to qualify for licensure in Washington DC.4 Applicants may complete the required background check, which is fingerprint based, through the third party identity service MorphoTrust USA or through the DC Metropolitan Police Department.4 Candidates who choose to complete the background check through MorphoTrust USA can access services and schedule an appointment through the company’s website.5 Alternatively, candidates can call the DC Metropolitan Police Department at 202-442-9004 to schedule a fingerprinting appointment.4

4. Register 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 to become licensed in Washington DC.4 The District of Columbia Board of Nursing uses a third party testing service, Pearson VUE, to administer and score the exam.4 Candidates should therefore visit the Pearson VUE website for instructions on registering for the exam.6 Once the candidate has registered and application materials have been reviewed, the candidate will receive an Authorization to Test to schedule and take the exam.4 Candidates who pass the exam and meet all other requirements for licensure will receive a registered nurse license. Candidates who are not successful may re-apply to take the exam using the Application for Licensure by Re-Examination.7

5 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Washington DC

1. Become a Licensed Registered Nurse.

The District of Columbia Board of Nursing requires that any applicant for a nurse practitioner’s license first be licensed as a registered nurse.9 This requires that future nurse practitioners begin by obtaining an education in registered nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN.

2. Complete a Graduate Program in Nursing.

Nurse practitioners must complete a post-basic or graduate education in nursing to be eligible for licensure in Washington, DC.9 The program should either be approved by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing or be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization acceptable to the Board.9

3. Earn National Certification by a Recognized Organization.

Earning a nurse practitioner’s license in Washington DC requires passage of an examination leading to national certification from an organization recognized by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing.9 Guidelines for the acceptability of certifying organizations and examinations are available in Chapter 59 of the DC Municipal Regulations.9 A full list of recognized certification programs is also provided in the instructions for initial applicants.10

4. Submit the Application for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.

The District of Columbia Board of Nursing, under the Department of Health, provides the Application for Licensure for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse for prospective nurse practitioners.11 Note that all materials should be mailed in a 9×12 envelope, and stapling and folding of application materials should be avoided.10 Along with the application, candidates should provide two identical, recently taken passport style photos bearing the candidate’s name on the back.10 Candidates must request that the certifying organization from which national certification was obtained e-mail verification of same to the District of Columbia Board of Nursing; alternatively, verification can be sent in a sealed envelope with the application.10

Note that prescriptive authority for legend drugs and controlled substances is automatically granted with nurse practitioner licensure.9 However, subscribing, dispensing, or allocating controlled substances does require registration with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).12

5. Complete the Mandatory Criminal Background Check.

Prospective District of Columbia nurse practitioners must undergo a criminal background check to prove eligibility for licensure.10 Candidates have the option of completing the required background check either through the DC Metropolitan Police Department or through a third party identity service, MorphoTrust USA.10 Candidates may view and schedule services on the MorphoTrust USA website.5 Candidates who would like to complete the background check through the DC Metropolitan Police Department may call 202-442-9004 for scheduling.10

Washington DC Nursing Associations

Current and prospective nurses in Washington DC can find professional benefits such as networking, employment opportunities, and continuing education by joining a DC area nursing association.

District of Columbia Nurses Association

Nurse Practitioner Association of the District of Columbia

Washington DC Nursing Salary

Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants 2,930 $30,300
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses 1,100 $50,980
Registered Nurses 11,310 $75,790
Nurse Practitioners 760 $69,440

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

References:
1. District of Columbia Municipal Regulations Title 17, Chapter 55: Practical Nursing
2. District of Columbia Department of Health: Approved Schools of Nursing
3. District of Columbia Department of Health Application for Licensure by Examination, Board of Nursing: Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse
4. District of Columbia Department of Health Application Instructions and Forms for Licensure by Examination: Registered Nursing, Licensed Practical Nursing
5. Safran: MorphoTrust USA: District of Columbia Department of Health Enrollment Services
6. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
7. District of Columbia Department of Health Application for Licensure by Re-Examination, Board of Nursing: Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse
8. District of Columbia Municipal Regulations Title 17, Chapter 54: Registered Nursing
9. District of Columbia Municipal Regulations Title 17, Chapter 59: Nurse Practitioners
10. District of Columbia Department of Health Application Instructions and Forms: Advanced Practice Registered Nursing in the District of Columbia
11. District of Columbia Department of Health Application for Licensure by Endorsement – Board of Nursing: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
12. US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration: Application for Registration Under Controlled Substance Act of 1970