About Boards of Nursing
What are Boards of Nursing?
Boards of Nursing (BONs) are state governmental agencies that are responsible for the regulation of nursing practice. More than 100 years ago, state governments established BONs to protect the public's health and welfare by overseeing and ensuring the safe practice of nursing. BONs achieve this mission by outlining the standards for safe nursing care and issuing licenses to practice nursing. Once a license is issued, the board's job continues by monitoring licensees' compliance to state laws and taking action against the licenses of those nurses who have exhibited unsafe nursing practice.
Duties of Boards of Nursing
Each state determines the specific administrative responsibility and oversight of the BON. BONs report to one of the following:
- The governor of the state
- Both the governor and a state agency
- A state agency
- Another state official or organization
Board structures and decision-making powers and authority are also unique for each board. Individuals who serve on a BON are appointed to their position. State law dictates the membership of the BON, which usually includes a mix of:
- Registered nurses
- Licensed practical/vocational nurses
- Advanced practice registered nurses
Board members meet often to oversee BON activities and take disciplinary action on nurse licenses as necessary.
Typical powers and duties of a BON are:
- Enforcing the Nurse Practice Act and nurse licensure
- Accrediting or approving nurse education programs in schools and universities
- Developing practice standards
- Developing policies, administrative rules and regulations
Again, scope and responsibilities vary state-to-state. Therefore, nurses in the U.S. are responsible for knowing the regulatory requirements for nursing and the nurse practice act in every state that they practice.
The Nurse Practice Act
Each state or territory has a law called the Nurse Practice Act, which is enforced by each nursing board. Nurses must comply with the law and related rules in order to maintain their licenses. The law describes:
- Qualifications for licensure
- Nursing titles that are allowed to be used
- Scope of practice (what the nurse is allowed to do)
- Actions that can or will happen if the nurse does not follow the nursing law