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How to get licensed in a new state: A physician’s guide

physician working on licensing in new state

Dr. Laura Bruse is an orthopedic surgeon who has been practicing medicine for more than 20 years. She has worked locum tenens since 2006 and completed 50+ assignments across the U.S. In this article, she shares her learning on what it takes to get licensed and credentialed to practice in a new state.

Dr. Laura Bruse
Laura Bruse, MD

So you want to practice in your favorite state. Whether you are interested in a short-term, locum tenens assignment or looking to relocate to a permanent position, it will require more than just updating your CV and packing your suitcase. This guide will help you understand what you need to obtain licensure in a new state and get credentialed with a new hospital system.

Working for federal health programs

If you want to work for the federal government in either the VA system or the Indian Health Service, you probably won’t have to get a new license to practice in a new state. Any state license will allow you to work at a VA hospital in any state. For example, if you want to work in a VA hospital in Alaska, and you live in Florida, your Florida license will work. Just make sure it will not expire prior to starting the first assignment. Check the expiration date on your license and if needed renew it well before the assignment begins.

Like the VA, an Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital is a federal government facility, so any state license will allow you to work in that facility. A full list of IHS hospitals can be found on the IHS website.

Getting a new state license

If you are interested in practicing in a new state outside of the federal health system, you will most likely need to get licensed in that state. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has a comprehensive list of contacts for the medical boards in all 50 states. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact may help with expediting the process, depending on your existing license(s) and which state you are looking to practice in.

A good way to streamline the process of obtaining other state licenses is to establish a repository of verified core credentials with the Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS). This allows you to maintain all your professional educational certificates in one easily accessible location. Credentials stored within the FCVS may be used for multiple state board applications, and many state boards use this centralized repository as a source for obtaining the information they need for licensing. There is a fee to use the FCVS.

In order to obtain a medical license, each state has specific requirements related to your performance on the USMLE and other tests.

It is important to keep all currently obtained licenses active. Be sure to give yourself sufficient time to renew each license unless you want them to expire. Renewing a state license may take as little as two weeks (e.g. a temporary Nebraska license) or up to three to six months or even more (e.g. California, Florida, Nevada, Texas).

Interstate Medical Licensure Compact States

Reporting from the NPDB

It is also important to understand what information may be obtained about you by a healthcare organization or the state where you hope to be licensed. A key resource used by most organizations for licensing and credentialing is the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB collects information on individual healthcare practitioners and organizations. A NPDB query will provide results that represent your professional record, including any reportable adverse actions. When applying for licensure in another state, you may be required to do a self-query and submit the results as part of your application. The type of information gathered by the NPDB may include:

  • Medical malpractice payment reports
  • Any state licensure actions
  • Exclusion or debarment actions
  • Government administrative actions
  • Clinical privilege actions
  • Health plan actions
  • Professional society actions
  • Judgement or conviction reports
  • Peer review organization actions

Additional needs

Other items needed for full credentialing with the locum company or a hospital system include the following:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Certificates: Keep copies of all your college certificates, any other degrees or fellowship certificates, and board certifications. Copies of these will be required as part of any application process. Generally emailing a PDF scan of your certificates will suffice.
  • CMEs: Credentialing and state licensure both require maintenance of your medical education as evidenced by CME certificates or recorded CME participation.
  • Other education: Keep a record of any specialty courses or other educational programs in which you have participated.

Opportunities to practice in new parts of the country can be exciting! Stay organized and with the help of your locum tenens company, the process of getting licensed and credentialed for your new job can be easy and efficient.

Where would you like to practice? CompHealth has locum tenens and permanent opportunities in all 50 states. Call 888.212.0816 to start the licensing process today.

About the author

Dr. Laura Bruse

Dr. Bruse is an orthopedic surgeon who has practiced medicine for over 20 years and have been working locum tenens assignments off and on since 2006. She attended medical school at LSU Shreveport and did a foot and ankle Fellowship in Little Rock, Arkansas.

She has completed over 50 locum tenens assignments in 6 different states and carry active licensure in four states.

1 Comment

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  • I am a physician from Canada. I have my license in Ontario Canada OKLAHOMA and Pensylvania. But probably will not have the possibility to have more license thru equivalency. It seems that the rigorous check done by OK and PA does not count.


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