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Should nurses keep their original licenses?

Monday August 27, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

If an employer requires nurses to turn in their original licenses upon renewal, is this permitted and/or wise? I always have believed nurses should keep their original licenses and provide copies as needed.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear John,

There is no question that the employer is required to ensure its nursing staff is licensed and the license is current and not encumbered. The employer can have a copy made by a designated person, say in HR, and have the copied license marked "copy" with the nurse keeping the original.

In fact, keeping an original license in the workplace where others may be able to access it, copy and alter it, and use it as their own is a real risk. In either scenario, originals or copies should be kept under lock and key, with only one person having access to them.

At one time, licensure verification only could be done by physically seeing the license and keeping the original or copying it. However, today many boards of nursing have a licensure verification link on their home page where one can look up a nurse by name and number to verify a license, find out whether a nurse has been disciplined (and if so, why) and see when the license is up for renewal. In addition, NURSYS (www.nursys.com) also provides licensure verification for many state boards of nursing. The employer also can print out this information.

It might be worth the time to discuss your concerns with your employer and with the risk manager. Perhaps a change in policy will occur.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.