FAQ - Inactive status versus Volunteer status

Question: My current Maryland RN license will expire soon. I recently retired and was planning to renew as "inactive status." I see there is a "volunteer status," both having the same renewal fee. I am not able to find definite information about the volunteer status. Can you help me understand which renewal would be appropriate for me. I do volunteer work with my church, etc, but do not present myself as volunteering as a nurse. However, my many years of nursing background and being known to members there, I am asked many questions, maintain the first aid kit, etc. There is no fee involved.
Response: Thank you for contacting the Maryland Board of Nursing with a question about the difference between an inactive license or volunteer status.
A volunteer license allows a nurse to practice nursing whereas a licensee on inactive status is prohibited from practicing nursing. So, to answer your question, it depends on whether you intend to practice nursing as defined in the Nurse Practice Act without compensation. If your volunteer work at church constitutes the practice of nursing, you must renew as a volunteer and you will be subject to a criminal history records check. If you do not intend to ever practice nursing as a volunteer, without compensation, then the inactive status would be the more appropriate. Only the nurse can answer the question of whether or not he or she intends to practice nursing as a volunteer and without compensation. The renewal fee for both volunteer and inactive status is identical: $20. COMAR & (c).
A volunteer license is governed by section 8-312(c)(2)(ii) (Nurse Practice Act, p. 24), which says that a licensee may renew a license for an additional term to volunteer status if the licensee . . . pays to the Board a renewal fee set in Board's regulations [i.e. a reduced renewal fee of $20] but only "if the licensee certifies to the Board that the licensee provides professional services only as a volunteer." (emphasis added) This means that the individual who chooses volunteer status may practice nursing in Maryland but is prohibited from receiving any compensation for practicing nursing as a volunteer. In addition, under section 8-312(f) and (g)(NPA, p. 25), a nurse renewing on volunteer status nurse is required to submit to a criminal background check per the schedule (every 10 years) for renewal applicants set forth in the Board's regulations.
In contrast, inactive status is governed by section 8-309 of the NPA ( pages 22-23), which says that a licensee who renews to inactive status "may not practice nursing in this State" but may use the title "Registered Nurse" or "RN." NPA, page 23, section 8-309(c)(emphasis added). A licensee on inactive status is only subject to a criminal history records check upon an application for reactivation of the inactive license. See section 8- 309(d)(1)(ii) (NPA, p. 24.)
One other important and very personal consideration is the finality of the retirement decision. Maintaining an active license for another renewal cycle keeps open the option to return to practicing your profession for compensation. Given the uncertainties of life and economics, it may be worth renewing the active status (provided you meet all other requirements for renewal) rather than closing the door on the possibility of practicing for compensation.
Regardless of which status you choose, we thank you for your service to the citizens of Maryland and wish you the best in your retirement.
updated 09/15/2016

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