Maintaining Your Nurse Practitioner License with Intentionality

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a session held at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Professional Health a part of a Prescribing Controlled Drugs conference. As I listened to the speaker discuss the importance of complying with state medical boards when it comes to licensing requirements, all I could think about was the notice from the TN Board of Nursing I personally had haphazardly lying on my kitchen table at the bottom of my ‘To Do’ pile.

The letter warned that I had 30 days left to confirm my supervisory physician relationship in the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database.

Weeks earlier, when I received the letter I thought to myself “I doubt anyone at the Board of Nursing would ever really check to see if I took care of this”. Not to mention, completing the task seemed simple so I tossed the note aside to take care of later-a poor decision based on what I learned at the conference. During the session, my thoughts on the Board of Nursing’s vigilance took a 180.

State boards of medicine and nursing take their authority over nurse practitioners’ ability to practice seriously. In general, they want to keep NPs in practice, but compliance with licensing standards is essential. Neglecting to complete something as simple as a few hours of continuing education, for example, can land you with a reprimand that might be permanently noted on your record. Although tardiness in completing CME requirements isn’t likely to result in permanent harm to your license or career, it may put a red flag next to your name that you find yourself explaining away in a job search or credentialing process.

It can be difficult to stay up to date with the latest state requirements when it comes to maintaining your nurse practitioner license to practice. New regulations such as mandatory continuing education on controlled substance prescribing, for example, may be implemented unnoticed on part of the NP. Submitting a change in a collaborative physician relationship to the board of nursing with coinciding with an employment transition is easy to forget. Although keeping up to date with your state’s licensing regulations takes time, effort, and intentionality, it’s something nurse practitioners need to be aware of. Negligence is not an excuse for failing to meet these requirements in the eyes of regulatory boards.

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As I listened to the speaker at the conference, I realized that I work  with a limited legal awareness. I’ve been taught to practice somewhat defensively, in tune to the realities of medical malpractice lawsuits, but not with an awareness of the standing of my own advanced practice nursing license. Just like a misstep in my clinical decision making can land me in a legal mess, neglecting to actively understand and keep up with the requirements for maintaining my license to practice can do the same.


The Vanderbilt Center for Professional Health offers courses throughout the year for physicians and nurse practitioners interested in learning more about maintaining appropriate practice boundaries and prescribing controlled substances. Information on upcoming courses can be found on the Vanderbilt Center for Professional Health website.


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