APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS COUNTY DEPARTMENT, CHANCERY DIVISION. No. 95 CH 3870. THE HONORABLE AARON JAFFE, JUDGE PRESIDING.
Rehearing Denied September 18, 1997. Released for Publication October 9, 1997.
Presiding Justice Cousins delivered the opinion of the court. Gordon and Leavitt, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cousins
PRESIDING JUSTICE COUSINS delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiff, Luzviminda de la Rosa (de la Rosa), filed a complaint for administrative review against defendants, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (Department), the Department's Director, Nikki M. Zollar, and the members of the Committee of Nurse Examiners, seeking reversal of the Department's denial of her application for licensure as a registered professional nurse by endorsement of her California license, which she received when she passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), a nationally given standardized exam. The trial court reversed the Department's decision and ordered it to issue a license to plaintiff. The Department appealed.
On appeal, defendants contend that: (1) the trial court erred when it reversed the Department's decision because plaintiff failed to satisfy the statutory requirements for licensure by endorsement in Illinois; (2) the Department properly denied plaintiff's application for licensure by endorsement because the licensing requirements in California were not substantially equal to the licensing requirements in Illinois; (3) the Department properly denied plaintiff's application for licensure by endorsement because, pursuant to this court's decision in Valdez v. Zollar, 281 Ill. App. 3d 329, 665 N.E.2d 560, 216 Ill. Dec. 500 (1996), plaintiff did not pass the NCLEX until February 1994, one year after the date at which the 1990 amendment could be enforced to bar pre-1990 applicants.
In order to become a registered nurse, plaintiff initially attempted to pass the precursor to the NCLEX in Illinois in July 1984. She failed that exam. She attempted to pass the exam again in July 1986, February 1987, and July 1987. At the time of these exams, the Illinois Nursing Act (Act), (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 111, par. 3428.2) prohibited the licensing of persons who had failed the exam six times until they had retaken the entire course of nursing study. See Yu v. Clayton, 147 Ill. App. 3d 350, 352, 497 N.E.2d 1278, 100 Ill. Dec. 916 (1986).
In 1987, the Act was amended and limited an applicant to a total of six opportunities to pass the NCLEX within three years. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 111, par. 3515. See Valdez, 281 Ill. App. 3d at 331. If the applicant failed the NCLEX a total of six times within three years, the applicant would be ineligible to take any further examinations or to be issued a license until such time as the applicant submitted to the Department evidence of the recompletion of the entire course of study. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 111, par. 3515. Plaintiff made another attempt to pass the NCLEX in California in July 1993, but failed again.
Effective January 1, 1990, the Act was again amended and presently requires:
"Any person in this State or in any other jurisdiction of the United States who fails to pass an examination within 3 years to determine the fitness of such person to receive a license as a registered professional nurse *** shall thereafter be ineligible to take any further examination or examinations, or be issued a license, until such time *** of the recompletion of the entire course of study ***." (Emphasis in original.) 225 ILCS 65/15 (West 1992) (eff. January 1, 1990) (formerly Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 111, par. 3515)
Plaintiff finally passed the NCLEX in February 1994 and received her license as a registered nurse in California on March 31, 1994. Thereafter, she was licensed by endorsement in Indiana in July 1994. Plaintiff applied for licensure by endorsement in Illinois pursuant to section 19 of the Act, which provides that an applicant who is already licensed in another state will be granted a license by endorsement without examination "whenever the requirements of such state *** were at the date of license substantially equal to the requirements then in force" in Illinois. 225 ILCS 65/19 (West 1992).
In a letter dated March 23, 1995, the Department denied plaintiff licensure by endorsement. The letter stated:
"In order to be eligible for licensure on the basis of endorsement under the provisions of the Illinois Nursing Act of 1987, ch. 111, par. 3501 et seq.) [sic], the applicant must have been licensed under a statute which was substantially equal ...