Registered Nurse Certification in How to Become an RN in Rhode Island: Nursing License Application and Renewal Guide

To become a registered nurse (RN) in Rhode Island, you must first obtain a nursing degree, then complete and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), and finally apply for a license through the state board. This process can take as little as two years or upwards of six years, depending on the type of degree you wish to pursue.

Nationally, the nursing industry is projected to grow 12% by 2028, which is much faster than any other industry in the U.S. Additionally, as of 2019, the national average salary of RNs was $73,300 per year, which is much higher than the national average wage index. The average salary for RNs in Rhode Island was estimated at $82,310 in 2019. Like the rest of the nation, Rhode Island is experiencing its own nursing shortage, suggesting that RN jobs will be in high demand in the coming decade.

Rhode Island State Board of Nursing

The Rhode Island Department of Health facilitates the Rhode Island State Board of Nursing, which handles licensing in the state. Residents can pursue four types of nursing licenses:

  • Registered nurse (RN);
  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN);
  • Advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

To contact the Board, you can dial 401-222-5960, fill out a contact card online, or visit their physical address at:

Department of Health
3 Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

To acquire an RN certification, all applicants must obtain a degree from an accredited school. Due to unprecedented demand in the industry, more students are enrolling in RN schools now that ever before. Rhode Island offers a variety of RN programs to enroll in as well as varying degree options. These degree options include:

  • Bachelor’s Degree (BSN): This program is the national standard for RNs, and takes four years to complete. The coursework provides you with a broad education in management and leadership that plays a key role in the present healthcare sector.
  • Associate’s Degree (ADN): You can earn an Associate degree in nursing via a two-year degree program designed to equip students with the skills needed to begin a career in nursing.
  • Diploma Course: The diploma course in nursing is one to two years in duration and incorporates practical as well as theoretical knowledge.
  • Direct Entry MSN Program: This program is designed for non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders who want to earn a master’s degree in nursing.
  • Accelerated BSN Degree: This course is designed for students who previously earned a bachelor’s degree in another field.
  • LPN to RN Program: This program provides an opportunity to licensed practical nurses who wish to refine their skills and knowledge in order to meet the challenges of the evolving and dynamic nursing sector.  
  • RN to BSN Program: This program is for associate degree or diploma degree holders who are currently working as an RN.

Incoming students must also meet additional requirements, including:

  • They must be 18 years of age or older;
  • They must have a high school diploma;
  • They must be able to achieve proficiency in English;
  • They must submit a level-one fingerprint clearing card;
  • They must pass a drug test and criminal background screening;
  • They must submit a valid photo ID with a valid address;
  • And they must pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) pre-entrance exam.

RN Licensure by Examination

This is the process for graduates and all new applicants; those licensed as RNs in another state or jurisdiction may need to follow the endorsement process detailed below. To obtain a license, applicants must:

  • Submit a $135 fee by check or money order made payable to the General Treasurer, State of Rhode Island;
  • Attach a recent passport-sized (two-inch by two-inch) photograph with signature and date;
  • Submit official transcripts, along with the licensure application, in a sealed envelope provided by the school;
  • Register with the Department of Attorney General to complete the criminal background check.

For internationally trained nurses, in addition to the above requirements, you must also complete the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) requirements.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

Applicants must complete an in-person fingerprinting and background check through the Bureau of Criminal Identification. Background checks in Rhode Island cost $5 and can be paid by check, money order, or credit card; fingerprinting costs $15.

Approved Exams

Nurses are required to pass the NCLEX before applying for their license. This test is used for every state’s board of nursing to determine the nurse’s preparedness. Practice tests are available to help prepare for the exam.  

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

To take the NCLEX, you must first apply for licensure with the Rhode Island State Board of Nurses. Then, you must register with Pearson VUE, which requires a $200 registration fee. This is an online testing site that hosts the NCLEX. Make sure you choose the test that is specific to RNs.

After registering, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter. This letter will have important testing information that is needed to schedule your exam. After receiving the ATT, you can schedule your test on the Pearson VUE website.

Testing Vendors and Proctors

There is one testing center in Rhode Island:

If that one is unavailable, there are additional testing centers in neighboring states.

Additional Requirements for Certification

As stated above, you must have your ATT to take the test. You should also bring a valid form of ID when going to the testing site, as the NCLEX has many security measures to discourage cheating.

Applying for Licensure

After you take the exam, the results and documents must be approved by the Board. Afterward, they will issue you a license to begin practicing nursing.

RN Licensure by Endorsement (Out-of-State Applicants)

If you are an RN licensed in another state, you can obtain a Rhode Island license by endorsement. To gain a license through this process, applicants must meet the previous requirements under licensure by examination as well as:

  • Must be a graduate holding a degree, certificate, or diploma from a Board-approved nursing program;
  • Must provide a copy of an active, out-of-state license;
  • Must have proof of residency;
  • And they must have a license verification from the state or territory where the original license was issued.

Internationally trained nurses must also meet the previous requirements under licensure by examination. Additionally, they must provide verification of a primary residence.

RN License Renewal

All RN licenses in Rhode Island expire every two years. You’ll receive a renewal notification two months prior to the expiration date. Licenses are renewed online and are paid for with a credit card. If you’ve experienced hardship, the Board offers a six-month grace period for renewal.

Continuing Education Requirements

RNs looking to renew their license must complete 10 hours of continuing education during the two-year licensing cycle — two of which must be about substance abuse. Continuing education courses must be approved by the Rhode Island Board of Registration and Nursing Center.

Rhode Island Nursing License Verification

To verify an RN license in Rhode Island, you can use the online verification tool provided by the Nursys website.

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