Washington Nursing License

washingtonIn Washington, the competency and quality of LPNs, RNs, nursing technicians and advanced registered nurse practitioners is the responsibility of the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC).

The commission’s mandate is to establish, monitor and enforce licensing rules, including the acquisition of a Washington nursing license. It is also charged with maintaining consistent standards of practice, competency mechanisms and with handling all matters related to discipline. In addition, the commission approves and establishes curriculum for nursing schools, both existing ones and new ones coming on line.

The commission consists of 15 members, all of whom are appointed by the Washington governor. Three are from the general public, two are ARNPs, seven are RNs and three are LPNs. All members must be Washington residents. The public members must be independent, with no membership or ongoing interest in any other board, commission or organization.

The laws and rules of nursing are covered by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). All working, practicing nurses in Washington must have at least an associates degree in nursing, as well as a current, valid license.

RN Licensing

RNs in Washington can apply for license via either examination or endorsement. If they choose to apply for a license, they must pass the NCLEX-RN, which is administered by Pearson Vue. In addition, an FBI background check is an essential part of the application process, and the background check includes includes fingerprinting as well.

A copy of the application can be found at

http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/669242.pdf.

The fee for the exam is $200. After receiving their license, nurses are eligible to participate in Washington’s Transition to Practice (TTP) program. Once they join the program, new RNNs are frequently assigned a preceptor to monitor their progress.

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LPN Licensing

To get their license, aspiring Washington LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN exam. The application fee for the exam is $92, and a $32.50 fee is also required for the criminal background check. The exam fee is $200.

After receiving their application packet, applicants will find two addresses inside. The application material and the fee should be sent to the Department of Health, and the additional support materials should be sent to the Nursing Commision.

To assist with the licensing process, one useful service for candidates seeking a license is provided by the Washington Nurse Licensing Service.

This organization streamlines the paperwork process, and it claims to reduce the waiting time from 2-3 months to 2 weeks for license acquisition. It has operated in Washington since 1994 and helps license over a thousand nurses each year.

The fee for using this service is $175.

RN Education

All nurses working in Washington must have at least an associates degree in nursing. The list of schools offering this degree is quite extensive, and it includes Olympic College, Spokane Community College and Clark College in Vancouver, among others.

A complete list of degree programs can be found at the website maintained by the Washington State Nurses Association, http://www.wsna.org/education/degree-programs/.

Under the laws governing continuing education, both RNs and LPNs must demonstrate that they have completed at least 531 hours of active practice and 45 hours of continuing education every three years. Both unpaid and volunteer nursing activities are included in the definition of active practice.

Audits for compliance with these requirements are being conducted in 2014. Renewals will continue on an annual basis, but nurses must sign a document verifying that they are in compliance with these numbers for practice and continuing education.

Additional information about the compliance process can be found at http://www.wsna.org/Topics/Continuing-Competency/. Online options for continuing education can be accessed at http://cne.wsna.org/ets/welcome.aspx.

LPN Education

In Washington, aspiring LPNs can get the required education at vocational schools, trade schools and private LPN schools.

Most LPN programs are brief, specialized courses designed to establish competence and knowledge in the work environment and prepare students to take and pass the NCLEX-PN. They are also designed to help LPNs distribute meals and medications, make patients comfortable and facilitate better communication between doctors, patients and practicing nurses.

A list of accredited LPN programs includes Charter College, Pima Medical Institute and Carrington College, which has campuses in both Portland, Oregon and Spokane. Information about these programs can be found at http://www.nursegroups.com/LPN_Programs/Washington.

Salary and Career Info

The interactive chart above is a visual representation of the annual salary of Washington licensed nurse compared to the national annual salaries, all based on the latest May 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

RN-to-BSN Option

Fortunately for practicing Washington nurses seeking to further their education, there are numerous schools offering RN-to-BSN programs.

The options include Washington State University at several locations (Spokane, Vancouver, Tri Cities, Walla Wall and Yakima), Western Governors University and Western Washington University.

A complete list of programs can be found at http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/Pubs/669080.pdf.