Can a nurse volunteer nursing services in a state in which she is not licensed?

By | 2021-05-07T16:33:45-04:00 July 6th, 2015|3 Comments
Dear Nancy,

I am an RN holding licensure only in one state. I am scheduled to participate in a charity walk event as a walker and part of a fundraising team. The event will take place in another state. The organizers will provide a medical tent, which is to be staffed by nurses who have volunteered their time for the event, to provide immediate first aid to participants as the need arises. One of their local nurse volunteers has cancelled at the last moment, and one of the event organizers, has asked me to take her place. It seems obvious to me since I am not licensed there, I should decline her request. They are not asking for lay helpers, they are asking for nurses only, so to my mind, I would be practicing under the scope of a nurse, and need to obey all applicable licensing rules. The organizer, who is not a nurse, assures me that it would be OK, since I am volunteering. To me, in this case, volunteering denotes only that I am donating my professional services without pay, and not that I am a volunteer in the sense of an untrained recruit or helper.


Dear Cindy,

Your assessment of the volunteer situation is correct. If you are volunteering nursing services, you must first have an RN license in the state in which you volunteer. The organizer’s belief is incorrect.

Volunteering nursing services in a state in which you are licensed is protected under the state’s Good Samaritan Act. As you indicated in your letter, when volunteering, you do not receive compensation of any kind. Moreover, if someone is injured due to your care, you are immune from suit unless you were willfully and wantonly negligent.

In the situation you describe in your question, this immunity would not apply and you could be sued for any type of negligence if an individual were injured due to your care. You could also face allegations of practicing nursing without a license in the state where the event is being held and/or face allegations of holding yourself out as an RN licensed in that state when you are not.

Sometimes it is difficult to stand your ground when you know you are correct. You were right in questioning this request, and declining it is in order. You are a professional. You must always protect your license because, in the end, you are the only person who can do so.

Regards, Nancy


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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.


  1. Avatar
    Jennifer Hall July 23, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Can you do something as simple as take a persons blood pressure or check a blood sugar in a state you are not licensed in?

  2. Avatar
    Shauna Saint onge March 31, 2020 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I’m here to help and an Or and ICU and Hospice and medsurg nurse during this crisis.

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