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

All first-time applicants for licensure through a health-related board in Tennessee must complete criminal background checks for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.4 For expedited processing, the Tennessee Board of Nursing recommends that applicants begin the background check process at least six weeks prior to graduating from their nursing program. 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

3. Submit the Application for Practical Nurse Licensure.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing provides applications for practical nurse licensure by examination through the online Tennessee Department of Health Licensure and Regulatory System.1 Note that the online application should be completed at a desktop computer since it is not mobile optimized. Candidates should be prepared to pay the required fees electronically at the time of application.

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 at least two weeks prior to graduating from their nursing program.5 Once the applicant is registered for the exam and the Tennessee Board of Nursing has received all other required application materials and fees, the applicant can be made eligible to schedule and attempt the exam.

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. 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 The Tennessee Board of Nursing recommends that licensure candidates begin the background check process at least six weeks prior to graduating from a nursing program. 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

3. Submit the Application for Registered Nurse Licensure.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing provides applications for registered nurse licensure by examination through the online Tennessee Department of Health Licensure and Regulatory System.1 Note that the online application should be completed at a desktop computer since it is not mobile optimized. Candidates should be prepared to pay the required fees electronically at the time of application.

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 register for the NCLEX-RN at least two weeks prior to graduating from their nursing program in order to expedite processing.5 Once all application materials have been reviewed, the Tennessee Board of Nursing will issue an authorization to test that allows the candidate to schedule and attempt the NCLEX-RN.

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 by 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.

Prospective nurse practitioners are only eligible for licensure in Tennessee if they have completed a formal education program 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 awarded 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 certification in one or more specialties from a recognized national organization.6,7 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 licensure application should be initiated through the online Tennessee Department of Health Licensure and Regulatory System. All sections of the application are mandatory, including the Practitioner Profile Questionnaire.8 A professionally taken passport-type photograph measuring 2.5 inches by 2.5 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 Nursing Salary

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants30,490$23,850
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses23,620$37,920
Registered Nurses60,080$58,410
Nurse Practitioners5,230$93,790

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2016.11,12,13,14

Job Search Advice

lisa-nistler

  1. Proofread your resume to ensure it is error free – errors in your resume make you appear to be careless and sloppy.
  2. Your resume should target the position you are seeking – don’t have your cover letter reference a hospital position if you are applying for a job in a physician’s office.
  3. Research the position you are applying for – this will help you during the interview process to answer questions which are particular to the position.
  4. Don’t be afraid to follow up – the prospective employer desires someone who is eager to work for them.
  5. Apply for the job you want to be in – the prospective employer does not want to be a stepping stone to another position or career goal.
  6. Don’t take it personally if you do not get the position – it isn’t about you! You were a great candidate, but someone else was a better fit at this time. Keep going you will find the perfect job for YOU!”

-Lisa Nistler BSN, RN, NCSN is President of the Tennessee Association of School Nurses and Director of School Health, Nashville, Tennessee.

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
11. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Nursing Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311014.htm
12. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
13. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Registered Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
14. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Nurse Practitioners: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm