Can I Be a 'Nurse Coach' Across State Lines?

Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD

Disclosures

October 25, 2018

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Question

A California registered nurse (RN) wants to know whether she can coach clients in another state. She writes:

I am preparing for my nurse coach board certified exam. In the meantime, I'm practicing as a "transformative nurse coach," with my clients understanding that I'm pursuing certification. So far, my clients have been in California. California isn't a compact state, so my license isn't good in other states. Can I still coach out-of-state clients? Can I work around it by not calling myself a nurse?
Response from Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD
Healthcare attorney

As you know, you can't work as a nurse in another state, unless you are licensed in that state. Calling yourself a "transformative nurse coach" implies that you are practicing as a nurse. You will be using your nursing credential for credibility with clients.

You are in somewhat of a difficult position. Any marketing you do is likely to refer to you being a nurse. If you have a client in Arkansas, the Arkansas Board of Nursing could find that you are using your nursing credential to practice in their state without having a nursing license. That is something you definitely want to avoid.

"Coaches," however, are not licensed or regulated and can perform their service in any state.

I wonder how much of your service involves "nursing" as compared with using the coaching process that any coach might use. Does your work require that you give "nursing" advice—that is, advice that a non-nurse would not be qualified to give? Do you, in your face-to-face or telephone consultations, say, "In my nursing experience..."? Does your RN enable you to get clients you would not get if you weren't a nurse? If the answer is "no," you might drop any mention of being a nurse and call yourself a life coach.

If you call yourself a "coach" but do not mention being a nurse, you can perform your service for individuals who are outside of California. So, you have a choice to make: Use the nursing credential and limit your practice to California, or drop the nursing credential, call yourself a "coach," and take on clients in any state.

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