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Kentucky Nursing License Requirements

Practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners in Kentucky are licensed and regulated by the Kentucky Board of Nursing to ensure the quality of healthcare and nursing services in the state. All nurses in Kentucky begin their careers by acquiring an education in nursing through a diploma or degree program. You can learn more about how to become a nurse in Kentucky by selecting one of the licensure categories listed 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)

6 Steps to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Kentucky

1. Take a Practical Nursing Program.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing requires licensed practical nurses to have graduated from a program in practical nursing.1 Such a program usually consists of 40 to 46 academic credits.1 For licensure in Kentucky, such a program may either be approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing or may be accredited by another organization.2 However, a program must have approval from the US Board of Nursing to make a candidate eligible for licensure.2 First time pass rates for graduates of programs in Kentucky are available for comparison.3

2. Complete the Licensed Practical Nurse Application.

The application for becoming a licensed practical nurse is available to be completed online through the Kentucky Board of Nursing website.4 A paper application is also available upon request.5 Note, however, that an additional $40 fee applies to requesting and submitting a paper application for licensure.5

3. Complete the Federal and State Criminal Background Checks.

There are two required criminal background checks for licensure in Kentucky, the federal criminal background check and the state criminal background check. As the procedure for completing each background check is different candidates should be sure to follow the instructions for compliance provided by the Kentucky Board of Nursing.6

The Federal Criminal Background Check

The required fingerprint card for the federal criminal background check should be requested through the online Fingerprint Card Application Request.7 The Kentucky Board of Nursing is not the appropriate place to send the completed fingerprint documentation for the federal background check unless otherwise instructed, and any fingerprint cards received at that office will be returned. Candidates should send the fingerprint cards and the required fee to:8

Kentucky State Police
Records Branch
1266 Louisville Rd
Frankfort, KY 40601

The State Criminal Background Check

State background checks for nurse licensure in Kentucky are completed through the Administrative Office of the Courts.6 Applicants should visit the Administrative Office of the Courts FastCheck portal to begin the state background check process.9 Applicants should request that an electronic copy of the report be forwarded to the Kentucky Board of Nursing.6 Alternatively, a paper background check application can be requested.6 Note, however, that paper background checks take four to six weeks, compared to two weeks processing time for electronic checks.6

4. Take the Kentucky Jurisprudence Exam.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing requires applicants for practical nurse licensure to take and pass the Kentucky Jurisprudence Exam.8 The link to the exam becomes accessible through the portal for checking application status once the candidate has met all prerequisite license requirements.8 The 35 question exam is “open book” and based on content found in the nursing laws of Kentucky and Advisory opinions issued by the Kentucky Board of Nursing.10 For more information about the exam as well as study materials candidates can visit the Jurisprudence Examination page on the Kentucky Board of Nursing website.10

5. Register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

Prospective practical nurses must register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).8 Registration for the exam is done through Pearson VUE, a third party company that delivers and scores the NCLEX-PN on behalf of the Kentucky Board of Nursing.8 The registration is done online through the Pearson VUE website.11

6. Pass the NCLEX-PN Exam.

A passing score on the NCLEX-PN is required for practical nurse licensure.8 Candidates who successfully pass the NCLEX-PN will be notified of their practical nurse license number and the license expiration date by email.8 Candidates who do not pass will be required to re-apply to take the exam to earn a passing score and pay the appropriate fees.

6 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Kentucky

1. Earn a Degree in Nursing.

A registered nurse can become eligible for licensure in Kentucky by obtaining either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing.1 The Kentucky Board of Nursing approves select programs in the state, which may also have accreditation from another organization.2 A program must be approved by the US Board of Nursing for a graduate to be eligible for nurse licensure in Kentucky.2 The Kentucky Board of Nursing also publishes a list of first-time pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for graduates of programs in Kentucky.3

2. Complete the Registered Nurse Application.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing provides an online portal for completing the registered nurse license application.4 Candidates may apply to the Kentucky Board of Nursing for a paper application form; however, an additional $40 fee is required to receive and submit a paper application.5

3. Complete the Federal and State Criminal Background Checks.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing requires two criminal background checks for licensure in Kentucky, the federal criminal background check and the state criminal background check. Note that the process for complying with the requirements for each background check is different; candidates should closely follow the instructions provided by the Kentucky Board of Nursing to avoid delays in licensure.6

The Federal Criminal Background Check

The federal criminal background check is completed through a fingerprint card, which may be requested through the online Fingerprint Card Application Request.7 Note that completed fingerprint cards are not to be sent to the Kentucky Board of Nursing unless otherwise instructed, and any fingerprint cards received at the office will be returned. Candidates should send the fingerprint cards and the required fee to:8

Kentucky State Police
Records Branch
1266 Louisville Rd
Frankfort, KY 40601

The State Criminal Background Check

The Administrative Office of the Courts completes state background checks for nurse licensure in Kentucky.6 Applicants should visit the Administrative Office of the Courts FastCheck portal to begin the state background check process.9 Applicants should request that an electronic copy of the report be forwarded to the Kentucky Board of Nursing.6 Alternatively, a paper background check application can be requested.6 Note, however, that paper background checks take four to six weeks, compared to two weeks processing time for electronic checks.6

4. Take the Kentucky Jurisprudence Exam.

Prospective registered nurses must take and pass the Kentucky Jurisprudence Exam.8 Once a candidate has met the prerequisites to licensure on the initial application the exam will be available through the portal for checking application status.8 The exam is “open book” and consists of 35 questions based on content found in the nursing laws of Kentucky and Advisory opinions issued by the Kentucky Board of Nursing.10 For more information about the exam as well as study materials candidates can visit the Jurisprudence Examination page on the Kentucky Board of Nursing website.10

5. Register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

Candidates for registered nurse licensure must register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).8 The Kentucky Board of Nursing has contracted with Pearson VUE, a third party company that delivers and scores the NCLEX-RN.8 Registration for the NCLEX-RN should be completed through the Pearson VUE website.11

6. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam.

A passing score on the NCLEX-RN is the final prerequisite for registered nurse licensure in Kentucky. Those who earn a passing score on the NCLEX-RN will receive their registered nurse license number and the license expiration date by email.8 If a passing score is not earned, candidates may re-take the exam upon re-application and payment of additional fees.8

8 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Kentucky

1. Become a Registered Nurse in Kentucky or a Compact State.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing requires that prospective nurse practitioners first become licensed as registered nurses in Kentucky or a compact state.12 Prospective nurse practitioners should therefore first meet the requirements for registered nurses, which includes earning a passing score on the NCLEX-RN.

2. Complete a Post-Graduate Education in Nursing.

A post-graduate or post-basic education in nursing from a program that is accredited by a recognized accreditation or approval body is required for nurse practitioner licensure.13 The program must be offered through or affiliated with an accredited college or university and must lead to a doctoral, master’s, or post-master’s degree.13

3. Earn National Certification in a Population Focus.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing requires that nurse practitioners earn national certification in a specific population focus that is recognized by the Board.12 The current recognized population focus areas are available through the online application portal.14 A list of recognized certifying bodies for these focus areas is available in the Kentucky Administrative Regulations.13

4. Earn HIV/AIDs Continuing Education.

Two hours of HIV/AIDs continuing education completed within two years of the date of application for nurse practitioner licensure is a prerequisite for receiving a nurse practitioner license.15 The hours must be earned through a provider approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing, a list of which is available through the required continuing education page on the Board website.15

5. Complete the Application for Nurse Practitioners.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing prefers candidates to complete the application for nurse practitioners through its online portal.14 Prospective nurse practitioners may request a paper application via a form provided by the Kentucky Board of Nursing.16 Note, however, that an additional $40 fee will be assessed for requesting and submitting the paper application form.16 To supplement either application, prospective nurse practitioners must provide proof of current national certification, an official transcript from the post-graduate nursing program completed, and verification of registered nurse licensure.12

6. Complete the Federal and State Criminal Background Checks.

Two criminal background checks are required for nurse practitioner licensure, the federal criminal background check and the state criminal background check. It is important to know that compliance with the two different background checks requires two different processes.6 Applicants should be careful to follow the Kentucky Board of Nursing instructions for compliance to streamline application processing.6

The Federal Criminal Background Check

A completed fingerprint card, which may be requested through the online Fingerprint Card Application Request, is required for the federal criminal background check.7 The Kentucky Board of Nursing does not accept fingerprint cards unless otherwise instructed, and any fingerprint cards received at the office will be returned. Candidates should send the fingerprint cards and the required fee to:8

Kentucky State Police
Records Branch
1266 Louisville Rd
Frankfort, KY 40601

The State Criminal Background Check

State background checks for nurse practitioners in Kentucky are completed through the Administrative Office of the Courts.6 Candidates may begin the state background check process through the online Administrative Office of the Courts FastCheck portal.9 Applicants should request that an electronic copy of the report be forwarded to the Kentucky Board of Nursing.6 Alternatively, a paper background check application can be requested.6 Note, however, that paper background checks take four to six weeks, compared to two weeks processing time for electronic checks.6

7. Take the Kentucky Jurisprudence Exam.

All prospective nurse practitioners must earn a passing score on the
Kentucky Jurisprudence Exam.8 The exam becomes available through the online portal for checking application status once the initial application has been reviewed and approved.8 The exam is “open book” and consists of 35 questions based on content found in the nursing laws of Kentucky and Advisory opinions issued by the Kentucky Board of Nursing.10 For more information about the exam as well as study materials candidates can visit the Jurisprudence Examination page on the Kentucky Board of Nursing website.10

8. Execute a Collaborative Agreement, If Necessary.

Advanced practice registered nurses, which includes nurse practitioners, may prescribe drugs and devices that are within the ordinary scope of practice for a nurse practitioner without additional credentials.13 Prescribing substances that fall out of the ordinary scope of practice for a nurse practitioner, which includes controlled substances, may only be done through consultation or referral, which may be defined through a written collaborative agreement with a Kentucky licensed physician sharing the same or similar specialty as the nurse practitioner.13

If such a collaborative agreement is executed the nurse practitioner and physician should submit the Notification of a Collaborative Agreement for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Prescriptive Authority for Controlled Substances form.17 Note both the physician and nurse practitioner must obtain and provide proof of Drug Enforcement Administration control numbers to support the form.17

Kentucky Nursing Associations

There are numerous nursing associations in Kentucky that can offer current and future nurses at all levels of licensure opportunities to network professionally, access continuing education, and further their careers.

Kentucky Nursing Salary

Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants 24,090 $22,870
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses 9,930 $37,550
Registered Nurses 42,920 $57,510
Nurse Practitioners 1,820 $84,910

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

References:
1. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Types of Nursing Programs
2. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Approval and Accreditation
3. Kentucky Board of Nursing: NCLEX Pass Rates by Nursing Program
4. Kentucky Board of Nursing: RN & LPN Application
5. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Paper Application Request Form
6. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Federal/State Criminal Background Checks
7. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Fingerprint Card Application Request
8.Kentucky Board of Nursing: Apply for a License
9. Kentucky Court of Justice Administrative Office of the Courts: FastCheck
10. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Jurisprudence Examination
11. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
12. Kentucky Board of Nursing: How to Apply for RN & APRN Licensure
13. Kentucky Administrative Regulations Title 201 Chapter 20: Board of Nursing
14. Kentucky Board of Nursing: APRN License Application
15. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Continuing Education
16. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Paper Application Request Form, APRN Applications
17. Kentucky Board of Nursing: Notification of a Collaborative Agreement for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Prescriptive Authority for Controlled Substances