The Frustration of Moving Your Professional License After Every PCS

If not me, then who…..” -1st LT Travis Manion


When it comes to obtaining your professional license in the state that you will be PCSing to, it can go either way. It can be a simple process consisting of an application, some form of license verification, a fee of some sort and then you get your license. If only it were that easy. For many of us, including myself, it’s not.

The excitement of finding out where the Navy will be sending us next is overshadowed by the task of finding out your next state’s licensing process. I would have to say that it is about as stressful as the PCS process. PCSing seems almost easier than getting licensed in your new state! Why is that?! Although some states have simple license reciprocity laws, as Lauren Lomsdale points out in her article License Reciprocity for Spouses, other states’ licensing processes are not.

>>Read more: DoD Official: States ‘Spotty’ in Easing Military Spouses’ Licensing Burdens

I have been an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for seven years. I have a national EMT license through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), an EMT license in both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Florida. I have taken the NREMT exam three times and I have maintained all my continuing education requirements for all of them as well. I have never had any of my licenses suspended, revoked or lapse due to failing to re-certify. I think I can say the same for all other military spouses who hold a professional license in their field. So why is it so hard to get a license in the state you move to? Especially if you hold a NATIONAL license? This is a question that I have been asking myself since our first PCS.

After we moved to Virginia, I started going through the process of getting my EMT license. At the time, Virginia gave all EMT’s a one year temporary license and within that year I had to get 40 CEUs, take the Virginia EMT exam, which was identical to the NREMT exam, and retake my practicals. I had just finished EMT school just six months prior to moving to Virginia so why am I having to go through this again?

Well, because that was the law at the time. I did end up meeting all their requirements and obtaining my Virginia EMT license but I was not satisfied with the process. Shortly thereafter I had an opportunity to voice my concerns and frustrations. I was invited to meet with Terrie L. Suit who at the time was Virginia’s first Secretary of Veterans affairs and Homeland Security, and she wanted to know what military spouses were facing when it came to the Virginia’s laws and regulations.

I told her my story and what the law states and she and her staff took a vested interest in my concern. Within the year, the law was changed and from now on, EVERY EMT who comes to Virginia will automatically get a Virginia EMT license under their reciprocity laws. Success!

Florida was next. Florida did not recognize my NREMT license, BUT they did recognize my Virginia license. The fee was waived for military spouses and I had to go take the NREMT exam, again. I submitted all my paperwork and within a month I had my Florida license before arriving in Florida.

Washington was next. Washington is going to be a challenge. I printed out the application, took an online AIDS course, obtained my fingerprints, paid my fee, took the NREMT exam, AGAIN, checked the “military spouse” box and sent in my application to the Washington Department of Health. One thing that Washington does is that they expedite your application if you are a military spouse, which is nice, but they have some other laws and regulations that stop you right before granting you a license.

For an EMT license, Washington requires you to become affiliated with an EMS agency that has a medical director. The medical director signs a form that basically says they will make sure you do all your continuing education requirements and you keep up on your training. But, we already have to do this for all our other licenses. So, why do we need to be “supervised” here in Washington?

So, I decided to take some action. I contacted my local representative, Rep. Michelle Caldier, and we met in downtown Port Orchard to talk. I told her my story and what I was going through and the laws that Washington has when it comes to EMT licensing compared to other states. I also told her what I am having to do in order to keep those licenses. Needless to say, she was appalled at this process and agreed to look into this for me. About a month later I received a response from her and what she had received from the officials at the Washington Department of Health.

The response from the Washington DOH was very troubling. Even though the Washington DOH states that even though they follow the guidelines of the NREMT, they feel that in order to assure the public that all EMT’s are keeping up with their education requirements, they have a medical director basically vouch for them.

But, maintaining our license requirements is part of our job and if they follow the NREMT guidelines, wouldn’t that be enough?

What about those of us, like me, who work in an emergency room in a local hospital where we work with multiple physicians, nurses and other advance practice specialties? Only 12 states, including Washington, have these types of laws. Thirty-nine states and Guam have some form of reciprocity in order to get an EMT license. So, with the help of my wife, a response was sent citing articles and other vital pieces of information with the hopes of getting the laws changed.

This just doesn’t happen to those of us in the medical field. I have heard of stories of those that are attorneys, dentists and other professions coming up against a wall when it comes to getting a professional license.

Aren’t we all professionals no matter what state we are in?

It seems as if those that in our specific field are the same ones that prevent us from obtaining a license. Why is that? We’re colleagues right? Aren’t we supposed to help each other out from state to state?

If you hold a NATIONAL license, why do states choose not to recognize it? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? These are the questions I have been asking myself since our first PCS. I believe that because of my meeting with Terrie, the laws were changed so now my fellow colleagues who move to Virginia can get an EMT license just by submitting their NREMT license. I am now working with Washington to get their laws changed as well. My ultimate goal is it to get all states to recognize ALL national certifications when moving from state to state. And not just for military spouses, but for everyone!

I have often been asked, why. Why do you do this? Why do you use waste your time in dealing with this process? My response is “If not me, then who…?”

Read more: DoD Official: States ‘Spotty’ in Easing Military Spouses’ Licensing Burdens

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