Nursing Regulations and State Boards of Nursing

Nursing regulation is the governmental oversight provided for nursing practice in each state. Nursing is regulated because it is one of the health professions that pose risk of harm to the public if practiced by someone who is unprepared and incompetent. The public may not have sufficient information and experience to identify an unqualified health care provider, and is vulnerable to unsafe and incompetent practitioners.

Through regulatory processes, the government permits only individuals who meet predetermined qualifications to practice nursing. The board of nursing is the authorized state entity with the legal authority to regulate nursing. Legislatures enact the Nurse Practice Act for a state. The Nurse Practice Act typically:

  • Defines the authority of the board of nursing, its composition and powers
  • Defines nursing and the boundaries of the scope of nursing practice
  • Identifies types of licenses and titles
  • States the requirements for licensure
  • Protects titles
  • Identifies the grounds for disciplinary action

Boards of nursing are authorized to develop administrative rules and regulations that are used to clarify or make the statutes more specific. Rules and regulationsmust be consistent with the Nurse Practice Act, cannot go beyond the law, and, once enacted, have the force and effect of law. Public comment periods areprovided to allow nurses, students and the public to participate in the rule-making process by submitting written comments or participating in rule-making hearings.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has a website that provides information about various practice acts for most states. The purpose of NCSBN is to provide an organization through which boards of nursing act and counsel together on matters of common interest and concern affecting the public health, safety and welfare, including the development of licensing examinations in nursing.

Click here to go to NCSBN's home page:

Click here to go NCSBN's page that offers links to various states:

Delegation of Unlicensed Assistive Personnel

The critical nature of the regulatory issues raised by the use of nursing assistive personnel (NAP), or unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP), has been long recognized by NCSBN. Go to to view NCSBN's position paper on delegation and working with and through others.