September 29, 2017
Downtown Louisville at night with skyline reflecting on river

There are many reasons to pursue a nursing career in Kentucky. In addition to being a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, the Bluegrass State is home to some of the best hospitals in the nation.

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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 60,000 nurses of all practice levels employed in Kentucky. Here’s a breakdown:

Practice Level Employment
Registered Nurses 43,840
Nurse Anesthetists N/A
Nurse Midwives 70
Nurse Practitioners 3,620
LPNs and LVNs 9,790

Read on to learn everything you need to know about being a nurse in Kentucky!

Part One Kentucky Board Of Nursing

The Kentucky Board of Nursing issues and regulates all licenses and educational programs for nurses in the state. It is the responsibility of the board to ensure that anyone holding a license is competent to practice safely.



Kentucky Board Of Nursing
312 Whittington Parkway, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40222-5172


Phone:  502-429-3300 or 1-800-305-2052 | Fax:  502-429-3311 

Hours of Operation: 8AM-4:30 PM Mon-Fri except for state holidays.

For information on Kentucky nurse licensing including forms and application instructions, see Part Four.

Part Two Nursing Salaries In Kentucky

When adjusted for the cost of living, nursing salaries in Kentucky rank 39th highest in the nation. Find out how much you could or should be making.


Practice Level Average Annula Mean Wage
LPNs and LVNs $20.55 $42,740
Registered Nurses $30.65 $63,750
Nurse Anesthetists $80.48 $167,400
Nurse Midwives $50.91 $105,890
Nurse Practitioners $47.87 $99,560


Metropolitan areas tend to pay higher salaries to nurses. Some of the highest paying cities include:

Map indicating the top paying spots for nurses in Kentucky


1. Louisville

# of nurses in Louisville: 14,750
Average Hourly Wage: $31.11
Average Annual Salary: $64,700

2. Lexington

# of nurses in Lexington: 7,400
Average Hourly Wage: $30.12
Average Annual Salary: $62,660

3. Elizabethtown/Fort Knox

# of nurses in Elizabethtown/Ft. Knox: 1,210
Average Hourly Wage: $29.87
Average Annual Salary: $62,130

4. Bowling Green

# of nurses in Bowling Green: 1,620
Average Hourly Wage: $28.48
Average Annual Salary: $59,240

Part Three Demand For Nurses

Despite studies projecting a surplus of registered nurses in Kentucky over the next decade, many Kentucky hospitals are struggling to hire enough nurses to care for patients.

According to Susan Ellis, the VP of Patient Care Services at Highlands Regional Medical Center, “larger Kentucky hospitals may have between a 10 and 40 percent vacancy rate.”

Some hospitals have been so desperate for qualified applicants that they’ve had to start offering exorbitant signing bonuses. Pikeville Medical Center in east Kentucky offered a $25k signing bonus to compete with other hospitals. This allowed them to recruit over 300 nurses at a time while other hospitals were experiencing dire shortages.

Part Four KY Nursing Licenses

As a Nursing Compact state, Kentucky recognizes licenses from 24 other states. These include:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

For the most part, nurse licensure in Kentucky is processed online. In fact, the Kentucky board of nursing does not even issue license cards. Licenses are now sent in the form of an email which includes your license number and expiration date.

We’ve included the links you’ll need to apply for and maintain your Kentucky Nursing License. Throughout the process, you’ll be able to check your application status on KBN’s online portal.

General License Forms And Links

All applicants for nursing licensure by endorsement, examination, and reinstatement of a KY license that has been lapsed for over a year are required to complete the following:

Jurisprudence Exam | Study Guide
This exam covers specific Kentucky nursing laws and regulations.
State Criminal Background Check | AOC FastCheck Instructions
Federal Criminal Background Check
Fingerprint Card Application Request | Fingerprint Card Instructions

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)

Combined RN and APRN Licensure Online Application ($330)
APRN Only Licensure Application (From Compact States) ($165)
Official Transcript of Post-Basic Education
Proof of Current National Certification
Verification of Original RN Licensure (Endorsement from Non-Compact states)
Continuing Competency Requirements for Reinstatement
Temporary Authorization to practice as an RN & APRN


Combined Renewal RN and APRN Licensure Application ($65 + $55/APRN designation)
Renew an APRN license only (if you live in a compact state) ($55)
Renew an RN license and relinquish an APRN license ($65)

Registered and Licensed Practical Nurses (RNs & LPNs)


RN/LPN Examination Online Application ($100)
Information on Retaking the NCLEX

RN/LPN Endorsement Online Application ($165)
Paper Application Request - Endorsement


Reinstatement Online Application ($135)
Paper Application Request - Reinstatement ($40)
Online Expiration Date Validation
Continuing Competency Requirements

RENEWAL (Renewal Period is Sept 15 - Midnight ET, Oct 31)

LPN License Renewal ($65)
RN License Renewal ($65)
Renewal Validation
Paper Application Request - Renewal ($40)

Part Five Continuing Education Requirements

All nurses in Kentucky must complete 14 contact hours of continuing education from an approved provider each year from November 1st - October 31st.

There are a few mandatory courses which will count towards the total 14 contact hours required. 


Required CE Contact Hours Frequency
Domestic Violence 3 Contact Hours  Once within first 3 yrs
Pediatric Abusive Head Trauma
(Shaken Baby Syndrome)
1.5 Contact Hours Once within first 3 yrs

Note: The Domestic Violence course has been integrated into all Kentucky nursing schools’ curriculum since May 1998 and the Shaken Baby Syndrome course has been integrated since December 2011.


Required CE Contact Hours Frequency
Sexual Assault,
Forensic Medicine,
or Domestic Violence
5 Contact Hours  Once a year


Required CE Contact Hours Frequency
APRN Pharmacology 5 Contact Hours  Once a year
Sexual Assault,
Forensic Medicine,
or Domestic Violence
5 Contact Hours  Once a year

Note: APRNs may use their national nursing certification to satisfy the fourteen (14) contact hours (CH) needed for RN license renewal as long as the certification was initially attained during the licensure period, has been in effect during the entire licensure period, or the certification has been renewed or recertified during the licensure period.

Part Six Magnet Hospitals 

As of September 2017, there are 6 Magnet-recognized hospitals in the state of Kentucky. Below is a comprehensive list: 

Magnet Hospitals In Kentucky

Organization Name City
Baptist Health Lexington Lexington
Baptist Health Louisville Louisville
Methodist Hospital Henderson
Frankfort Regional Medical Center Frankfort
St. Elizabeth Healthcare Edgewood
University of Kentucky HealthCare Lexington

Part Seven Top Nursing Programs in Kentucky

Considering furthering your nursing education in Kentucky? Our panel of registered nurses reviewed nursing programs across the state based on their reputation, NCLEX pass rate, tuition, and accreditation status. See the top 10 listed below, and get additional details in our Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Kentucky guide.  

  1. Western Kentucky University
  2. Lindsey Wilson College
  3. Northern Kentucky University
  4. University of Kentucky
  5. Spalding University
  6. University of Louisville
  7. Morehead State University 
  8. Murray State University
  9. Eastern Kentucky University
  10. Bellarmine University

Part Eight Best Hospitals For Nurses analyzed 1,075 surveys of nurses from 87 hospitals in Kentucky to rank the best hospitals to work for in the state of Kentucky.

Badge for the top nursing hospitals in Kentucky

1. Baptist Health Lexington

Lexington, KY

4.4 Average Rating
97% Recommended

Magnet Hospital

“Baptist Health Lexington takes care of their employees. We have an open and friendly administration. All the nurses and techs help each other out and it’s very team oriented!”

“The best job I’ve ever had with the best group of people I’ve ever worked with!”

“Family atmosphere among coworkers!”

Read Reviews

2. Baptist Health Louisville (tie)

Louisville, KY

4.1 Average Rating
92% Recommended

Magnet Hospital

“When you first start you will feel like you belong there.”

“Good support for nurses from management.”

“I love the commitment to excellence and the drive to always be improving.”

Read Reviews

2. Methodist Hospital (tie)

Henderson, KY

4.0 Average Rating
100% Recommended

Magnet Hospital

“We are a small hospital but what we do, we do well. You will find no better nursing care anywhere!”

“Our hospital cares about every nurse in our facility. They are high on educating.”

“As a whole, they truly care about their staff.”

Read Reviews

4. University of Kentucky Medical Center

Lexington, KY

4.1 Average Rating
91% Recommended


Magnet Hospital

“Very friendly and very helpful group of people. Manager is very caring about staff and work atmosphere. Benefits are great.”

“Supportive staff and management.”

“It is a great place to work with great staff and great benefits.”

Read Reviews

5. Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital

Ashland, KY

4.1 Average Rating
88% Recommended

“Great facility. The staff is nice and well educated. The facility is up to date and the food is amazing! Great location.”

“It is a great place to work. Supportive management team [and] great team work!”

“Everyone is friendly, treats you like family, and I would not work anywhere else in this town!”

Read Reviews

6. Owensboro Health Pleasant Valley Center

Owensboro, KY

3.8 Average Rating
93% Recommended

“Coworkers were exceptionally nice.”

“Great teamwork, flexible scheduling, [and] culture of safety.”

“They pride themselves on frequent opportunities for education.”

Read Reviews

7. Baptist Health Paducah

Paducah, KY

3.9 Average Rating
84% Recommended

“Had some great experiences here and have amazing coworkers.”

“They offer opportunities for advancement in many areas of nursing.”

“The staff here are very helpful in caring for all needs of the patients and each other.”

Read Reviews

8. Lourdes Hospital

Paducah, KY

3.8 Average Rating
90% Recommended

“The coworkers and teamwork make this establishment enjoyable to work at.”

“Scheduling [is] flexible, staffing is adequate, [and] support staff is amazing.”

Read Reviews

9. University of Louisville Hospital

Louisville, KY

3.9 Average Rating
81% Recommended

“Pay is good and to grow as a nurse, this is the place you need to be.”

“Excellent education opportunities. A place for learning and perfecting new skills.”

“Lots of autonomy for nurses [and] great working relationships with residents and interns.”

Read Reviews

10. St. Elizabeth Medical Center

Florence, KY

3.8 Average Rating
84% Recommended

“This is a great facility. The staff are caring and respectful of each other. Patient needs come first.”

“The atmosphere among staff is friendly and very helpful for new employees. Management can be quite understanding and sympathetic when scheduling staffing shifts.”

Read Reviews surveyed 1,075 nurses from 87 hospitals in the state of Kentucky from 2015-2017 for this report. Hospitals with less than ten reviews were excluded from our list. The ranking order is based on the average rating and the percent of nurses who would recommend their hospital.

Part Nine Kentucky Nursing Organizations

Many nurses join professional nursing organizations as a way to stay current on what’s going on their field or specialty. They offer many opportunities for education and networking. Here is a list of professional nursing organizations in Kentucky.


Organization Website
Kentucky - Association of Women’s Health, OB, & Neo
Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives
Kentucky Nurses Association
Kentucky Organization of Nurse Leaders
Kentucky Psychiatric Nurses Association
Kentucky School Nurse Association
KY ENA - Kentucky Emergency Nurses Association

Part Ten Job Opportunities in KY

As a skilled nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the featured listings below or search thousands of job listings on our job board and get the pay and career path you deserve.


Elizabethtown, KY | Up to $2800/wk Take Home
13-Week travel contract. 1 year of recent NICU RN experience required. Multiple Shifts Available. Guaranteed Hours.
Apply Now


Hazard, KY | ARH
Permanent staff position providing individualized nursing care, and evaluating nursing care for groups of patients. 
Apply Now

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