Tennessee RN Requirements and Training Programs

Tennessee’s nursing shortage is projected to be the highest of all the south-eastern states. The crisis is so grave that the Tennessee Center for Nursing has been a recipient of funding from the Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future to devise solutions to the nursing shortage. The Health Resources and Services Administration expects that the state have the capacity to only fill half the demand for registered nurses by 2020. To this end, colleges offering the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program have been identified and recruited to provide a quick fix to replenishing the fast-depleting workforce. The ADN curriculum prepares students for the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) for fast entry to the workforce.

The availability of professional nurses is a critical part of maintaining the stability and quality of the health care system. Nurses form the largest part of the healthcare workforce, spending more time with patients than any other health care professional. Patients rely on them to deliver competent and safe care, monitor their progress, and respond rapidly when the treatment plan goes awry.

A genuine belief in the cause; in patients’ right to quality care, dignity and respect are what motivates most nurses. Committed nurses understand the magnitude of the impact that the profession has on patient care – their contributions are as integral as that of doctors. Their passion and compassion make a difference in the lives of ailing patients – however brief the encounter. Nurses share parents’ joy in the birth of new babies and the heartbreak of losing a loved one too soon. They administer medication, hold hands, translate doctors’ jargon, make assessments, advocate for patients, and much more. They understand how thin our hold on life can be and make use of every precious opportunity to serve. Their efforts are often under-appreciated but they press forward knowing the dignity and worth of each patient. So while the profession will attract some candidates who are seeking to benefit from the workforce shortage, the majority of nurses simply respond to their passion for care.

Education Requirements

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) prepares students for a career as a registered nurse. It is the minimum education you can attain to become eligible to sit the NCLEX for licensure as a registered nurse. The program content will be delivered via lectures, demonstrations, live presentations, skills lab, and clinical experiences.

Nursing courses will cover a two-year period for full-time students and will include instruction in pathophysiology, the fundamentals of nursing, pharmacology, nursing care of the adult, maternal child nursing, medical surgical nursing, mental health nursing, pediatric nursing, and community health nursing. The principles covered in these sessions provide excellent preparation for success on the NCLEX. The exploration of nursing concepts in the classroom will prepare students to work with patients from diverse cultures and reinforce the knowledge gained in the didactic component of the program.

Clinical placement in respected hospitals will support the development of key skills that are essential to the provision of effective patient care. Participation will also help students build a professional network to tap into when their job search begins after graduation. Upon successful passage of the licensure exam, they can pursue positions in hospitals, schools, clinics, home health, and other facilities.

Eligibility Criteria

A wave of interest in registered nursing program can cause entry to be an insurmountable feat. Waiting lists are as common as outright rejections. To improve your chances of admission, pay attention to all the requirements and complete any recommended prerequisites before attempting to submit an application. Paid or volunteer work in healthcare, nursing assistant certification, and above average scores on assessment exams are some other factors that will help you to distinguish your application from other candidates. There are admission requirements to the main college, conditional requirements for the nursing program, and requirements to complete after confirmation of your acceptance.

Here are some general guidelines for entering a nursing program in Tennessee.

  • Be a student in good standing at the college
  • A completed application to the nursing program
  • Official college transcripts
  • A grade C or better on the pre-requisite courses
  • Complete the general education courses with a grade C or better
  • Complete the ATI-TEAS and meet the minimum level of proficiency
  • Attend a nursing program orientation

A background check, CPR card, liability insurance, TB clearance, and health exam may be required for participation in the clinical practicum.

Duration and Cost

The average cost of tuition at community colleges in Tennessee is $160 per credit. The nursing program requires completing of approximately 39 credits of nursing courses plus general education and prerequisites. In addition to tuition, students must budget for fees, textbook, uniform, nursing pin, nursing lab, NCLEX fee, criminal background check, CPR certification, liability insurance, physical exam and vaccinations.

Tennessee RN Licensure Requirements

A licensed issued by the Tennessee Board of Nursing is essential before practicing as a registered nurse in Tennessee. It is a violation of statute to practice nursing without a renewable license issued by the Board. Offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Since Tennessee is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, registered nurses with a valid license from a compact state may practice in Tennessee without a license issued by the Tennessee Board of Nursing.

Licensure By Examination

Application for initial licensure by exam must now be submitted online through the Tennessee Board of Nursing portal. During the process, you must upload the documents pertinent to the completion of your initial application. You may also use a credit card, debit card, or e-check to submit your payment for the licensure application fee.

Following is a timeline for submitting your application/documents and some guidelines for the initial application for licensure:

  • Initiate a Criminal Background Check (instructions below) at least 6 weeks prior to graduating from the nursing course. Do not submit a licensure application to the Board until the Criminal Background Check is completed.
  • Register with Pearson Vue to take the licensure exam. Submit your registration request and fee two weeks prior to graduation. Do not submit an application to the Board until you have registered with Pearson Vue.
  • Request official transcripts from the nursing program to be sent directly to the Board of Nursing. Do not submit an application to the Board until you’ve graduated from the program.
  • Navigate to the online portal and submit your application for Initial Licensure by Exam.
  • Submit the application fee of $100 using a credit card, debit card, or e-check.
  • A completed, signed and notarized Declaration of Citizenship must be mailed to the Board of Nursing. Provide documentation of proof of citizenship or qualified alien status. Acceptable documentation include:
    • A Tennessee Driver’s License or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety
    • A valid driver’s license or photo ID issued by another state
    • An official birth certificate
    • A valid, unexpired passport
    • A certificate of citizenship
    • A certificate of naturalization
    • A verifiable SSN
    • 1-327 Re-entry Permit
    • Permanent resident card
    • Employment Authorization Card
    • Machine Readable Immigrant Visa
  • During the online application process, you will need to upload the following documents if you need special accommodation for the exam:
  1. A letter describing any special accommodation you might need for the exam based on the Disabilities Act
  2. A letter of diagnosis from a qualified medical professional including the results of a diagnostic test and any recommendations for accommodation
  3. A letter from the Director of the nursing program outlining the special arrangements graduate while in school.

The Board will send notification of any deficiency in your application if you do not submit all the required information. Please allow up to 6 weeks for processing of your application.

Licensure By Endorsement

Application for licensure by endorsement must now be submitted online through the Tennessee Board of Nursing portal. During the process, you must upload the documents pertinent to the completion of your application. You may also use a credit card, debit card, or e-check to submit your payment for the licensure endorsement fee.

Following are some guidelines for the application for endorsement:

  • Determine your primary state of residence before completing the application. If your primary state of residence is Tennessee or a non-compact state, you may proceed with the application for endorsement. It your primary state of residence is a compact state, and you hold a multistate license (MSL), you may apply for licensure in Tennessee and work on the MSL for up to 90 days. If you declare another state as your legal state of residence, you will be disqualified for a Tennessee license.
  • Initiate a Criminal Background Check (instructions below). Do not submit a licensure application to the Board until the Criminal Background Check is completed.
  • Request verification of licensure from the state where you were originally licensed. Use nursys.com if your state of licensure is a member or contact the Tennessee Board of Nursing for verification instructions if your state is not a participating member. The Tennessee Board of Nursing will accept SBTPE or NCLEX reports provided that the scores are equal to or higher than the minimum scores accepted by the Board.
  • Request official transcripts from the nursing program to be sent directly to the Board of Nursing.
  • Navigate to the online portal and submit your application for Licensure by Endorsement.
  • Submit the application fee of $115 using a credit card, debit card, or e-check.
  • A completed, signed and notarized Declaration of Citizenship must be mailed to the Board of Nursing. Provide documentation of proof of citizenship or qualified alien status. Acceptable documentation include:
    • A Tennessee Driver’s License or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety
    • A valid driver’s license or photo ID issued by another state
    • An official birth certificate
    • A valid, unexpired passport
    • A certificate of citizenship
    • A certificate of naturalization
    • A verifiable SSN
    • 1-327 Re-entry Permit
    • Permanent resident card
    • Employment Authorization Card
    • Machine Readable Immigrant Visa
  • During the online application process, you will need to upload a passport type photograph that you have signed and dated. The signature must legible and the date must not be more than 6 months prior to the date of the application.
  • Upload documents relative to a criminal conviction and a letter of explanation if you have been convicted of a crime.

The Board will send notification of any deficiency in your application if you do not submit all the required information. Please allow up to 6 weeks for processing of your application.

Licensure for Nurses Educated in Foreign Countries

If you graduated from a foreign nursing school, you complete some additional steps to ensure verification of your education and licensure credentials.

Application for licensure by endorsement must now be submitted online through the Tennessee Board of Nursing portal. During the process, you must upload the documents pertinent to the completion of your application. You may also use a credit card, debit card, or e-check to submit your payment for the licensure endorsement fee.

Following are some guidelines for the application for endorsement:

  • Determine your primary state of residence before completing the application. If your primary state of residence is Tennessee or a non-compact state, you may proceed with the application for endorsement. It your primary state of residence is a compact state, and you hold a multistate license (MSL), you may apply for licensure in Tennessee and work on the MSL for up to 90 days. If you declare another state as your legal state of residence, you will be disqualified for a Tennessee license.
  • Initiate a Criminal Background Check (instructions below). Do not submit a licensure application to the Board until the Criminal Background Check is completed.
  • Request verification of licensure from the state where you were originally licensed. Use nursys.com if your state of licensure is a member or contact the Tennessee Board of Nursing for verification instructions if your state is not a participating member. The Tennessee Board of Nursing will accept SBTPE or NCLEX reports provided that the scores are equal to or higher than the minimum scores accepted by the Board.
  • Request the Commission on Graduate of Foreign Nursing School (CGFNS) directly send a copy of the certificate to the Board of Nursing
  • Upload a copy of the CGFNS certificate.
  • Navigate to the online portal and submit your application for Licensure by Endorsement.
  • Submit the application fee of $115 using a credit card, debit card, or e-check.
  • A completed, signed and notarized Declaration of Citizenship must be mailed to the Board of Nursing. Provide documentation of proof of citizenship or qualified alien status. Acceptable documentation include:
    • A Tennessee Driver’s License or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety
    • A valid driver’s license or photo ID issued by another state
    • An official birth certificate
    • A valid, unexpired passport
    • A certificate of citizenship
    • A certificate of naturalization
    • A verifiable SSN
    • 1-327 Re-entry Permit
    • Permanent resident card
    • Employment Authorization Card
    • Machine Readable Immigrant Visa
  • During the online application process, you will need to upload a passport type photograph that you have signed and dated. The signature must legible and the date must not be more than 6 months prior to the date of the application.
  • Upload documents relative to a criminal conviction and a letter of explanation of you have been convicted of a crime.

The Board will send notification of any deficiency in your application if you do not submit all the required information. Please allow up to 6 weeks for processing of your application. Remember to notify to the Board of Nursing within 30 days if your mailing address changes. Failure to receive your renewal application at the correct address will not remove the responsibility of renewing your license on time.

Background Check Instructions

The background check process can take up to 6 weeks. The Board will receive electronic fingerprints within 8 to 10 business days. Use the following instructions to complete the fingerprinting process:

  • Register online at https://www.identogo.com – make sure to click the map of Tennessee. Select Online Scheduling to register, schedule, and make payment online, OR
  • Call toll free (855) 226-2937 to schedule and pay
  • Provide the following information:

Agency Name: Department of Health Licensure and Regulation
Applicant Type: Bureau of Health Licensure
OCA#: RN applicant enter 1703
Payment Type: Credit Card/Money Order/Cashier’s Check
ORI#: TN 920390Z

  • The fee for electronic fingerprinting is $32.65. Make cashier’s check or money order out to IdentoGO.
  • Schedule at appointment to be fingerprinted at an Identogo site in Tennessee. Print a copy of the registration page and take it to the appointment.
  • Provide a valid state or government issued photo ID for verification of your identity.
  • After you complete the fingerprinting, the information will be submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

RN Renewal Requirements Tennessee

Registered nurses in Tennessee renew their licenses every two years. The Board of Nursing will mail out the renewal notice 45 days prior to expiration to your last address on file. The expiration date is the last day of your birth month. You can initiate renewal online up to 60 days before your license expires. During the renewal process, you can update your address or name and provide any relevant documents to validate the change. The renewal fee is $100. It is illegal to practice nursing on an expired license.

Continuing Education Requirements for Tennessee RNs

Registered nurses must complete competency requirements during each biennial period. Keep evidence of compliance with the requirements for at least four years from the period in which the requirements were completed. The Board frequently selects candidates for random audits, and you must produce the request documents for inspection and verification within 30 days of a request for audit from the Board.

For your continuing competency requirements, you must complete two items from the following:

1.    Copy of a satisfactory employer evaluation
2.    Letter from a peer outlining satisfactory evaluation of your performance as a nurse
3.    Letter from a patient or family member stating satisfaction with your performance based on a nurse/patient relationship
4.    Copy of a renewal of your nursing contract or re-appointment
5.    Evidence of national certification
6.    A statement of your nursing goals and steps you took to achieve those goals
7.    A letter from an agency where you volunteered as a nurse
8.    A written self-evaluation based in the standards of competency listed in the rules
9.    Document from a school of nurse where your participated in the education of nursing students
10. Certificate of completing 5 contact hours of continuing education
11. A copy of a published article that you wrote related to nursing
12. Letter indicating satisfactory completion of a nursing refresher course
13. Letter indicating satisfactory completion of a nursing orientation program
14. Official transcript of completing two hours of nursing credit
15. Evidence of successfully retaking the NCLEX.

Tennessee Salary and Job Outlook

Your decision to enter nursing school will, in part, be guided by the career prospects for nurses in your community. The availability of jobs in your city, the cost of living, and the nursing salary based on the cost of living are some things you’ve probably researched. In Tennessee, the severity of the nursing shortage is the result of retiring baby-boomers, greater access to healthcare insurance, and medical advances that extend the average life span. Due to this shortage, hospitals, clinics, long-term care providers, home health care agencies, and other health facilities are seeking to recruit registered nurses. While hospital employers are actively searching for BSN nurses, there’s still plenty of posts for associate degree nurses.

According to a 2018 report from NewsChannel5, healthcare facilities are offering free housing, college tuition, and exorbitant bonuses in a bid to recruit more nurses. Employers have their backs against the wall as experienced nurses are retiring at an alarming rate and there are insufficient new graduates to replenish the workforce. What makes a bad situation even worse is the aging population. According to the American Nurses Association, the healthcare sector will need an additional one million nurses by 2022 to meet the nation’s health care demands.

Your decision to enrol in the ADN program is a worthwhile investment. In addition to a terrific salary and rewards of patient care, you’ll also benefit from bonuses, housing, tuition reimbursement, and other unique incentives. More than that, you can increase your value and career prospects if you go back to school to earn a BSN degree or pursue graduate study to prepare for advanced practice. The demand for specialized nurses is exceedingly great, and with national certification in a specialized, you’ll have the opportunity to practice nursing on a totally new and exciting level.

In Tennessee, registered nurses earn an average yearly salary of $60.050.

Contact the Board of Nursing

Tennessee Board of Nursing

Tennessee Board of Nursing
665 Mainstream Drive, 2nd Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Local: 615-532-5166
Toll-Free: 1-800-778-4123

Tennessee Registered Nursing Programs and NCLEX-RN Pass Rates:

ADN Programs Tennessee

Blountville, TN ADN programs:
Northeast State Community College
2425 Highway 75, Blountville, TN 37617-0246
423-323-3191
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92%

Chattanooga, TN ADN programs:
Chattanooga State Community College
4501 Amnicola Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37406
423-697-4404
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%

Cleveland, TN ADN programs:
Cleveland State Community College
PO Box 3570, Cleveland, TN 37320
423-472-7141
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 88%

Clifton, TN ADN programs:
Columbia State Community College
795 Main St, Clifton, TN 38425
931-676-6966
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92%

Collegedale, TN ADN programs:
Southern Adventist University
4881 Taylor Circle, Collegedale, TN 37315
1-800-SOUTHERN
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 88%

Cookeville, TN ADN programs:
Fortis Institute in Cookeville
1025 Highway, 111, Cookeville, TN 38501
931-526-3660
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%

Dyersburg, TN ADN programs:
Dyersburg State Community College
1510 Lake Rd, Dyersburg, TN 38024
731-286-3200
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91%

Harriman, TN ADN programs:
Roane State Community College
276 Patton Lane, Harriman, TN 37748-5011
865-354-3000
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94%

Harrogate, TN ADN programs:
Lincoln Memorial University
6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway, Harrogate, TN 37752
423-869-3611
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93%

Jackson, TN ADN programs:
Jackson State Community College
2046 North Parkway, Jackson, TN 38301
731-424-3520
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%

Knoxville, TN ADN programs:
Pellissippi State Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville, TN 37933-0990
865-694-6400
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96%

Lynchburg, TN ADN programs:
Motlow State Community College
P.O. Box 8500 Lynchburg, TN 37352-8500
931-393-1500
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94%

Memphis, TN ADN programs:
Concorde Career College
5100 Poplar Avenue, Suite 132, Memphis, TN 38137
901-761-9494
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 61%

Southwest Tennessee Community College
5983 Macon Cove, Memphis, TN38134
901-333-5000
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 88%

Morristown, TN ADN programs:
Walters State Community College
500 South Davy Crockett Parkway, Morristown, TN 37813-6899
800-225-4770
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92%

Nashville, TN ADN programs:
Aquinas College
4210 Harding Pike, Nashville, TN 37205
615-297-7545
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 62%

Nashville State Community College
120 White Bridge Rd, Nashville, TN 37209
615-353-3333
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94%

Tennessee State University
3500 John A Merritt Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37209
615-963-5000
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 64%

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