Should I Renew My Nursing License?

My career path has been less than straight. About a million years ago, when I first started college, I was a political science major. I thought I would be a lawyer, and maybe end up in DC working in the field of foreign relations. Then I married a service member, and before long I was following him to Korea, changing all my plans in the name of love.

At our next duty station, I went back to school, and this time, found a distance social science program. It wasn’t quite what I had wanted to do, but any degree was better than no degree.

One thing lead to another, and we got divorced. I had two small children, with very little to my name. I was a year away from my bachelor’s degree, and I panicked. I needed steady income NOW.


After some research, I decided to enter a nursing program. Nursing seemed like the best job for a single mom; my hours would be flexible and I could work swings or nights to make the most of my time with my kids. I would be able to find work just about anywhere, and for the time investment, the return in pay would be good.

For the next fourteen months, I kept my head down, and worked and worked. I was a nursing student during the day and waited tables on the nights and weekends. In any free time I had, I continued to work on my bachelors degree in the distance program (because I couldn’t stomach walking away from a degree when I only had a year to go).

It was, hands down, the hardest period of my life. Money was short, time was short. I was so sleep deprived. I took out a huge amount of money in student loans (regretting that instantly).

I pulled it off, and graduated from both programs in the spring of 2010. I studied for the NCLEX (the nursing licensing exam) and passed on the first try. I was hired into the first position I applied for. I married a wonderful man, and had another child.

Not long after, my family received orders to Germany, where I was unable to find work as an English speaking nurse. Our plans changed, and I started my own business, and began to do other things.

Fast forward six years later: here I am. We are back in the States and I am working in a field that has nothing to do with nursing. I am about to start a graduate program that also has nothing to do with nursing. Other than a short period of time when I first had my license, I have not worked as a nurse.

What’s a girl to do? Do I renew my California nursing license, even though I’m in the DC area and it won’t help me here? Do I renew it even though my educational and career choices are taking me farther and farther away from the field of nursing? Do I let the license go, despite still owing a considerable amount of money on my student loans? Do I commit to never nursing again even though I am well aware of how quickly plans can change?


When I really stop to think about it, the one thing holding me back is the cost. I could renew my license, but there will be an additional fee every two years to keep it active. There will be more fees to start working in a new state. Then I will have to pay to keep THAT license up. There are continuing education requirements. It gets expensive quickly.

I’m not ready to let it go. I like knowing I have it there, sitting in my wallet, in case I ever need to fall back on it. I am employable in more than one field, and that’s okay. I earned the right to call myself a nurse, and even if I am not practicing, I don’t want to let all the time and money I spent on learning the trade to go completely to waste.

If you are struggling to make the decision to renew a professional license, and are worried about the costs of renewing or transferring it, don’t forget NMFA has professional funds you can use to help pay for continuing education, fees and other license related expenses.

Apply today!

Have you considered letting a professional license go because of expense or some other reason? How did you decide?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager


Add yours
  1. 1

    Heather, I’m an RN who has maintained an active license for many years and do many different things. My first thought is that given how many years since you’ve practiced you’d want to take a refresher course in addition to CEU requirements (former course would count towards theses credits). 2nd -Nursing has a broad variety of jobs and roles, I wonder whether you could use it as a focus and adjunct to your present job or for future jobs. I would suggest keeping your license as anytime you needed extra money you could use this license for agency jobs. Latter is found in any state and requirements are many times recipricale.

  2. 2
    Heather A

    I agree that I will need a refresher course should I ever return to nursing. I do wonder if there is a way to tie together all the loose ends of the various degrees and jobs I have held… I don’t know if realistically there is. My current job is in social media. My masters will be in communications (with a focus on politics). I have the nursing license. I own a business focused on education. I have no idea how all the pieces fit together, but I do know that all these experiences have molded me into the person I am today (and I like her very much!) so it’s worth it.

    Thank you so much for your comment- it has been reassuring to hear so many people tell me to KEEP IT! I feel like I made a good decision. <3

  3. 5

    Heather, I can see some possibilities-Nursing has many jobs in IT, and communications, and education. Could bring some together by working with State Boards, Health care groups like-Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Services, even union groups-like WASNA.

  4. 6
    Athena P.

    Hi Heather! Wow, my story is similar like yours. I earned my nursing degree in 2003 and became licensed in 2004. Other than a few months working as a RN (and a couple of years before that as an ER tech), I have not been in the healthcare field in over a decade. I always knew I’d keep my license current, though — just in case. Good thing because now I am back in school and going for my BSN and depending how things go, I may pursue a masters or doctoral degree. I’ll still need to take a refresher course and go job hunting when we move back stateside, but I feel good to have the chance to finally do something with nursing. Of course, I went into other things (mainly photography, most recently for NMFA 😉 but I like to keep busy 🙂

    I say keep your license current, and good luck with your masters program!

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