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Rhode Island Nursing License Requirements

The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education Board oversees the education, licensing, and practice of nurses working in Rhode Island. The path to licensure as a practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner in Rhode Island begins with completing an education in nursing, which may include a diploma or degree program. Continue learning about how to become a licensed nurse in Rhode Island by selecting one of the categories of licensure recognized in the state 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 Rhode Island

1. Complete a Program in Practical Nursing.

Practical nurses in Rhode Island must complete a diploma or certificate program in practical nursing to be eligible for a license to practice.1 Programs located in Rhode Island should hold the approval of the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education; out of state programs that meet equivalent curriculum and instruction standards may also be acceptable.1 The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education provides recent pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for graduates of Rhode Island programs.

2. Complete Registration for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

Because permission to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) is contingent upon registration for the exam, the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education recommends that applicants register for the NCLEX-PN prior to submitting the licensure application.3 Registration for the NCLEX-PN should be completed through Pearson VUE, a third party testing company used by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education to administer and score the NCLEX-PN.4

3. Apply for a National and State Background Check.

The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education requires prospective licensees to complete national and state level background checks through the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General.3 The Bureau of Criminal Identification is responsible for performing these checks on behalf of the Attorney General’s office.5 Applicants should furnish the Bureau of Criminal Identification with a notarized request to release information, a fingerprint card containing the applicant’s fingerprint impressions as taken by local law enforcement, and a photocopy of acceptable photo identification.5 As the criminal records reports must be sent directly to the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education from the Bureau of Criminal Identification, applicants should also complete the Disclaimer form to release information to a third party.3,6

4. Complete the Application for License as a Licensed Practical Nurse by Examination.

The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education requires prospective licensed practical nurses to complete and submit the Application for License as a Licensed Practical Nurse by Examination for licensure consideration.3 Applicants must include a recent, passport style photograph with the application. In addition, the nursing program attended must provide the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education with official graduate transcripts.3 It is recommended that the school provide the applicant with a sealed envelope containing the transcript(s) so that the applicant may include this with the application packet submitted and streamline processing times.3 Note that the Affidavit of Application section of the application must be notarized.3

5. Request a 90 Day Graduate Nurse Permit, If Desired.

Prospective licensed practical nurses have the option to request a 90 day graduate nurse permit.3 The permit may be requested on the application for licensure, and if issued is only valid for 90 days.3 A temporary graduate permit may not be renewed, nor may a second temporary permit be issued upon the expiration of the first.3

6. Take the NCLEX-PN.

After the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education has received and reviewed all application materials, including the required background checks, the applicant for licensure may be made eligible to test on the NCLEX-PN.3 Eligibility will be issued in the form of an Authorization to Test, at which time the candidate can schedule and attempt the exam.3 A passing score on the NCLEX-PN will result in the issuance of a practical nursing license.

6 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Rhode Island

1. Complete a Program in Registered Nursing.

To be eligible for licensure in Rhode Island, a registered nurse must have completed a diploma or degree program in nursing.1 The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education approves registered nursing programs in the state of Rhode Island that meet the education requirements, though programs located out of state that are equivalent may also be acceptable.1 The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education also makes available recent pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for graduates of Rhode Island programs.

2. Complete Registration for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

As the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education can not make an applicant for licensure eligible for examination until he or she has registered to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), license candidates should register for the NCLEX-RN prior to submitting an application for licensure.3 The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education uses a third party testing service, Pearson VUE, to proctor and score the NCLEX-RN; registration for the exam is therefore completed with Pearson VUE.4

3. Apply for a National and State Background Check.

All prospective registered nurses must complete national and state level background checks to be eligible for licensure through the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education.3 Background checks for Rhode Island license applicants are completed through the Bureau of Criminal Identification, a department of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.5

To initiate a background check, candidates for licensure should send the Bureau of Criminal Identification a notarized request to release information, a fingerprint card containing the applicant’s fingerprint impressions as taken by local law enforcement, and a photocopy of acceptable photo identification.5 The Disclaimer form provided by the Bureau of Criminal Identification should also be completed and forwarded in order to allow the release of information directly to the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education, as required.3,6

4. Complete the Application for License as a Registered Nurse by Examination.

The Application for License as a Registered Nurse by Examination should be completed and sent to the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration to initiate the licensing process.3 Candidates for licensure should be sure to include a recently taken passport style photograph with the application.3 Candidates must also request that the school of nursing attended forward official transcripts in a sealed envelope to the candidate so that the candidate may include these with the application packet.3 Note that the Affidavit of Application section of the application must be notarized.3

5. Request a 90 Day Graduate Nurse Permit, If Desired.

Candidates for licensure who have graduated from a nursing program may elect to request a 90 day graduate nurse permit.3 If a temporary permit is desired one can be requested on the application for licensure.3 Once issued, temporary permits are only valid for 90 days and may not be renewed or re-issued.3

6. Take the NCLEX-RN.

Following review of application documents by the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education, an Authorization to Test that allows the licensure candidate to schedule and attempt the NCLEX-RN will be issued.3 Candidates who earn a passing score on the NCLEX-RN will receive a license to practice as a registered nurse.

7 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Rhode Island

1. Become Licensed as a Registered Nurse.

Registered nurse licensure is a prerequisite for licensure as a nurse practitioner in Rhode Island.1 Applicants must therefore obtain a registered nurse license in Rhode Island or an equivalent state by completing the required education and passing the NCLEX-RN.

2. Earn a Master’s Degree in Nursing.

Nurse practitioners must earn a master’s degree in nursing or complete a program in advanced practice approved for nurse practitioners by the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education that results in a master’s degree to be eligible for licensure.1 Acceptable programs must incorporate both coursework and supervised clinical experience.1 The program must be accredited to qualify a graduate for licensure.1

3. Obtain Certification as a Nurse Practitioner from a National Association.

National level certification from a recognized certifying association or organization is a prerequisite for nurse practitioner licensure in Rhode Island.7 The professional certification and awarding organization must be recognized by the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education to qualify the candidate for a nurse practitioner’s license.7

4. Complete State and National Level Background Checks.

The Rhode Island Board of Nursing Education and Nursing Registration requires prospective nurse practitioners to undergo state and national background checks prior to the issuance of a license to practice.7 The required background checks should be completed through the Rhode Island Attorney General and Bureau of Criminal Identification.5

Applicants should send a notarized request to release information, a fingerprint card containing the applicant’s fingerprint impressions as taken by local law enforcement, and a photocopy of acceptable photo identification to the Bureau of Criminal Identification to initiate the state and local background checks.5 The Disclaimer form provided by the Bureau of Criminal Identification should also be completed and forwarded in order to allow the release of information directly to the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education, as required.6,7

5. Submit the Application for Registered Nurse Practitioner.

The Application for Registered Nurse Practitioner should be completed in its entirety and forwarded to the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education.7 Note that the Affidavit of Applicant section of the application must be notarized.7

A recently taken passport style photograph of the candidate must accompany the application materials.7 In addition, the candidate must request that the nursing program attended forward an official transcript verifying the degree and date awarded to the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education.7 Verification of national certification should likewise be forwarded directly to the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education from the certifying organization.7

Applicants must be sure to include a chronological resume of experience from the date of graduation from a school of nursing to the time of application with the application materials.7 Note that the Rhode Island Board of Nursing Registration and Nursing Education recommends that applicants allow eight weeks for total processing time.7

6. Request a 90 Day Work Permit (Optional).

Upon the applicant’s request a non-renewable 90-day work permit for nurse practitioners can be issued provided that the candidate is a currently licensed Rhode Island registered nurse, has submitted the application forms for nurse practitioner licensure, and has an advanced practice license issued in another US state.7 Candidates meeting these criteria may request the work permit on the initial application for licensure.7 Note that a temporary permit does not allow for prescriptive privileges.7

7. Apply for Prescriptive Privileges, If Desired.

If desired, nurse practitioners may complete 30 hours of pharmacology education to become eligible for prescriptive privileges in Rhode Island.7 Applicants who wish to obtain prescriptive authority should complete the appropriate sections of the Application for Registered Nurse Practitioner and provide verification of pharmacology hours as required on the Summary Sheet of Pharmacology Education Activities in the nurse practitioner application.7

Prescriptive privileges for controlled substances also require Rhode Island Uniform Controlled Substances Act Registration, a form which is found in the licensure application packet.7 Once a nurse practitioner has been issued prescriptive privileges for controlled substances he or she must also register with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which can be done through the DEA website.8

Rhode Island Nursing Associations

Prospective and current nurses in Rhode Island can benefit from membership in a nursing association through opportunities such as professional networking, continuing education, and employment openings.

Rhode Island Nursing Salary

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants9,390$28,590
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses1,110$51,120
Registered Nurses11,840$73,070
Nurse Practitioners370$100,990

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

References:
1. State of Rhode Island General Laws Chapter 5-34 Nurses: Nurse Practice Act
2. Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education: Instructions and Application for License by Examination
3. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
4. State of Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General: Criminal Record Requests
5. State of Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General: Disclaimer Form
6. Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education: Instructions and License Application for Registered Nurse Practitioner
7. US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration: Application for Registration Under Controlled Substance Act of 1970