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Barriers to licensure for military spouse registered nurses

APA Citation:

Brannock, M. K., & Bradford, N. A. (2021). Barriers to licensure for military spouse registered nurses. Journal of Nursing Regulation, 11(4), 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2155-8256(20)30170-8

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study examined barriers to obtaining licensure for military spouses who were registered nurses. More specifically, the sample was drawn from 2 states that had implemented the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC; an agreement that allows nurses to transfer their license to other compact states) and 1 state that had not. 191 military spouses completed a demographic questionnaire (e.g., age, years of experience nursing). 14 of these military spouses and 5 stakeholders (e.g., government officials, hospital representatives) also completed semistructured interviews regarding licensure barriers. Themes that emerged included various licensure barriers (e.g., licensure requirements, application process for licensure, lack of unified knowledge) and potential solutions to these barriers.



Branch of Service:

Air Force
Coast Guard
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Brannock, Mary K., Bradford, Nicole A.


Background : By 2030, one million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States are projected to retire, which will exacerbate an existing U.S. nurse shortage. Reasons for the shortage include retiring RNs, an aging population, nurse burnout, and fewer nurse educators. Interestingly, military spouse RNs face unique hurdles to employment. Nursing is among the most common professions for military spouses, yet 89% of spouses did not relicense after a military move (Bradbard et al., 2016). Purpose The aim of this study was to better understand the military spouse RN landscape as it relates to barriers and facilitators to employment and the feasibility of licensure innovation. Methods A mixed methods feasibility review of 191 completed surveys and 14 semi-structured in-depth interviews were completed with military spouse RNs. Additionally, 5 stakeholder in-depth interviews were conducted and represent voices from hospitals, government, patient safety, and non-profit organizations. Results Multiple challenges with licensing were noted. More than 35% of the surveyed RN sample indicated they considered leaving the field of nursing due to constant licensing issues. Stakeholders and nurses aligned on the need for a unified platform that could assist with licensing, and preliminary feasibility was obtained for license innovation. Conclusion Differing state licensure requirements are a significant barrier to military spouses staying in the nursing workforce. Enhancing compacts or allowing special regulation for this population is critical not only to improve patient health outcomes, but also to support military families and the unique challenges they face as a result of frequent relocations.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


military spouse employment, nurse license reciprocity, nurse licensure compact

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2022

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