Military Spouses in Nursing

UPDATED 4/2021
USAA Community Military Spouses in Nursing.png

The pandemic has shined a light on many of the under appreciated lines of work, including nurses. They have been working for over two years now on the front lines battling the pandemic and doing all they can to keep us all healthy and safe. I am in awe of their dedication and strength and feel so blessed to call many of them my friends! 


It was a pleasure (and relief) to see one of them when I went into labor with my youngest daughter. They are patient's champions, cheerleaders and wonderful caretakers. Their job is not easy- and moving makes the process even more cumbersome (and expensive). I asked some of the nurses I know to share some insight into what it takes to do their job and keep their licenses despite frequent moves that take them across state lines.


Nancy: I received my license in Maryland, in 1995. Since then I have been licensed in PA, VA, FL, CA and now SC. I have always applied for the new one (whenever the Navy reveals upcoming plans) while I still have the old one current. Sometimes it's been a conveniently short 2 month overlap and once or twice I had to renew for the full dollar amount in the outgoing state just to have the application for the new state go more smoothly.


What is the most challenging part of obtaining a license in your new state?

Repeatedly going through the fingerprinting process is RIDICULOUS. I have been fingerprinted in FL, CA and SC since that vetting was added to RN licenses and it's sooooo crazy to have individual states submit to a national screen. One and done, please!


What you wish you knew before starting the process and do you have any tips for others going through the same process?


Don't let any license ever lapse altogether. Even if you aren't working, keep the most recent license active and paid up. It is way easier to apply for a new state with ANY license than NO license. 


Favorite work story (funny, sad, frustrating- whatever sticks out in your mind!)

I am particularly fond of introducing new dads to their babies in the NICU; moms are generally unable to visit right away and I like the quiet gentle introduction to their preemie, and explaining what all the wires and tubes and machines are doing. I'm also a huge fan of preemies/babies coming back to the hospital to visit--it's flabbergasting the transformation that results from a few teeth and a head of hair!


Christina: I received my license in California and I got a license in Nevada when we lived there. It was a bit of paperwork, more fingerprinting, and fairly expensive.


What you wish you knew before starting the process I wish I had known how challenging it would be for me to work 12-13 hour shifts and try to juggle my husband's (Active Duty) schedule. Having to work so many weekends as a full time nurse when I started left me with so little time with my husband who worked such long hours during the week. Now that he's deployed so often and we have kids, I feel guilty working because I want to give the kids a stable parent. However, in Nevada I was able to find a super part time job and work here and there. Even though it wasn't "real nursing" on the floor, it required my nursing license giving flu shots and vaccines and it was fulfilling to me to be using my license. I would encourage other nurses to think outside the box and look for jobs that might work for them.


Favorite work story (funny, sad, frustrating- whatever sticks out in your mind!) I got a lot of flak from my coworkers when I went part time to be able to spend more time with my husband. I got a lot of comments like "that must be nice to be able to go part time whenever you want". It made me sad. What they didn't know was that I would have loved to continue working on a part time or PRN basis, but when you move so often and your kids have one parent that leaves all the time-someone's career often has to be sacrificed or modified so that enough time is given to your husband and wife relationship and the kids can feel stability in the home.


Blair: I received my nursing license initially in Maryland and again when we moved to California.


What is the most challenging part of obtaining a license in your new state? The most challenging part about obtaining a new license in a different state is the background checks/having to get finger printed. So now that I know you can get them done on base without an appointment it is a little easier and cheaper than going to the police station. The Board of Nursing (in all states) is super slow with paperwork and you can never get anyone on the phone to talk. Best advice is get your stuff together as soon as you know what state you are going to because it can take a while and if you need to work as soon as you get there no one has time for The Board of Nursing to slow you down!


What you wish you knew before starting the process: I wish I would have known that the Navy will repay you the fees to pay for a new license in a new state with your PCS because it would have saved us several hundred dollars.


Favorite work story (funny, sad, frustrating- whatever sticks out in your mind!): When I moved from MD to CA, my last night at Johns Hopkins, they gave me the sickest kid on the unit and I missed my own going away party. I’ll never forget that! That kid kicked my butt, however she survived and I received a Facebook message from her mom a few years later thanking me for everything that I did for her daughter that night. It was one rough night but well worth missing my going away party for!


Emily:  I received my license in Arizona, which is a compact state*, but then we moved to Florida which is not, so I had complete more paperwork and pay upon moving there. Then we were relocated to South Carolina (a compact state!) but I still had to submit new fingerprints, fees, etc.

*“A nurse with a permanent residency in a NLC state has a multistate nursing license and is eligible to work in other states that make up the compact states."


What is the most challenging part of obtaining a license in your new state?

The most challenging part is remaining patient. It can be several weeks to get everything processed. Don't be afraid to contact the Board of Nursing in the state you are headed to, because as a military spouse some states allow you to practice with another state license for a short period of time.


Military spouse nurses out there, please chime in and add your favorite work stories and tips in the comments for keeping up your license after a PCS. 


THANK YOU NURSES! Thank you for all you do for our families and every patient you take care of! Join us in recognizing National Nurse Appreciation Week May 6th- May 12th.