The nursing shortage in the US was bad before the pandemic started. Now after the double whammy of a two-year pandemic and an aging population, it’s even worse.
The American Nursing Association estimates that this year will see more than 100,000 unfilled nursing jobs, “more than any other profession.”
Hospitals have traditionally brought in “nurse travelers” from outside their service areas and their states to comply with state staffing requirements. In 2000, the Nursing Licensure Compact permitted nurses licensed in one participating state to practice in other participating states. In 2018 the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) added some requirements, such as state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks.
With Vermont having started implementation February 1, 36½ states and territories are eNLC participants. Ohio has joined but won’t implement participation until January 2023. Pennsylvania and the US Virgin Islands have joined but have not yet set implementation dates. The half is Guam, which recognizes eNLC licenses but whose nurses won’t be able to apply for one until later this year.
Interstate licensing considerations for traveling nurses
Nurse burnouts, quits, and anticipated retirements (500,000 RNs this year) have only added to the need for hiring travelers to fill the gaps. But before you do, there are potential pitfalls to watch out for:
- Does your state belong to the eNLC? Does the nurse’s home state? If not, what are the licensure requirements for nurses with out-of-state licenses?
- If your state has passed eNLC legislation, have they implemented it yet? If not, have they set a date for doing so?
- If eNLC legislation is pending in your state, what’s its status?
- Do you have a process in place for checking and verifying out-of-state licenses?
- If your state is not an eNLC participant, what are its regulations regarding out-of-state licensure?
- What if nurses you hired as travelers join your contracted staff and move to your state? Have you a process for making sure they updated their licenses from multi-state to your state? Are the in-state licenses current? If not, you’ll have been providing patient care services without a license.
The expanding availability of out-of-state nurses can be hugely helpful for solving short-term nursing shortages. An audit of your practices against current regulations and compacts is a great first step in determining where and how to use traveling nurses in a compliant way.
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