Nursing-shortage solutions come with licensure challenges  

Nursing-shortage solutions

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. 

Do you have a system in place to manage regulatory changes? Having a solution that researches and analyzes regulatory changes, translates them into model procedures, and has a top healthcare law firm validate them can really pay. Read more about YouCompli’s regulatory monitoring process or schedule a demo.  

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The Health Care Compliance Institute is back to in person at the end of March, and YouCompli will be there!

We’re presenting the panel discussion “Reducing Healthcare Risk with Strong Regulatory Change Management” on Wednesday, March 30 at 1:45 MDT. The Health Care Compliance Institute panel includes healthcare compliance consultants Shawn DeGroot and Ken Zeko and New York Presbyterian’s Chuck Mazur. They’ll discuss how healthcare Compliance functions support the overall wellbeing of their organizations. Attendees will hear how they can:

  • Identify best practices for navigating regulatory change management in your organization
  • Elevate their skills in leading through influence
  • Connect compliance mandates to patient care, business objectives and reduced risk

The panel will discuss some of the challenges of effective regulatory change management. They’ll look at the risks an organization takes when it doesn’t support regulatory change management. And they’ll suggest ways for effectively navigating organizational complexity.

Their insights are backed up with industry data that YOU provided in our survey recently. Insights from your peers illustrate how compliance pros work in and influence across their organizations. The data also looks at metrics you’re using to show the effectiveness and value of your Compliance function.

If you can’t attend the event, we’ve got you covered: The session will be recorded and available from HCCA after the event. Plus, we will summarize the discussion and insights from the survey in early April. If you are at the event, be sure to visit Jerry and the team at booth #317 in the exhibit hall and come see the panel discussion.

26th Annual Health Care Compliance Institute

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Health Care Compliance Institute panel - Shawn DeGroot, Ken Zeko and Chuck Mazur discuss how healthcare Compliance functions support the overall wellbeing of their organizations.

About YouCompli

YouCompli is the only healthcare compliance solution combining actionable, legal and operational regulatory analysis with a simple SaaS workflow. Our compliance experts distill the complex regulatory changes issued by every healthcare regulator into a straightforward action plan that is completed within YouCompli software. The software guides users through a simple workflow to assign, manage, and track the rollout and completion of applicable regulatory requirements.

This one-two punch of intelligence and technology protects the whole organization and puts compliance officers at ease.

Compliance officers reflect on COVID pivots and preparing for the end of the public health emergency

Featured speakers: Craig Bennett, Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, Boston Medical Center; Rachel Lerner, Esq., General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Director, Center for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Hebrew SeniorLife; Maria Palumbo, Chief Compliance & Privacy Officer, Lawrence General Hospital. Moderated by Larry Vernaglia 

Bennett, Lerner and Palumbo addressed the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association’s Healthcare Legal Compliance Forum in December 2021. (Read a summary.) This recap of their remarks looks at how their Compliance teams responded to COVID and have continued to partner with their organizations to manage regulatory change. It also looks at regulatory changes they are planning for in 2022. To access the full session recording, please contact the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association.  

Initial COVID response

The panel reflected on their organizations’ initial response to COVID. “All of us had to pivot on a dime,” said Bennett. “We hadn’t had an opportunity to plan for it. Instead, we worked daily that first quarter to make sure we were as compliant as we could possibly be.” He was part of a team that looked at various waivers, platform security, privacy and other issues affected by the public health emergency to provide care safely.  

Lerner had a similar experience. “We immediately convened interdisciplinary committee so we could make changes quickly. Telehealth was really new territory for us, and we had to look at our outpatient medical practice, and home- and community-based care,” she said. “Tracking COVID 19 waivers was a team sport between Legal and Compliance. We broke down some silos, and that may be one good lasting benefit of this experience.”  

Palumbo and her colleagues focused on creating templates and consistency for documentation to make things as straightforward as possible for clinicians. That included having them track their patient contact time in minutes rather than defaulting to 20-minute increments. “We’re auditing these processes now to be sure we’re prepared when it gets looked at externally.”  

Accessibility concerns and solutions

Palumbo illustrated how healthcare organizations had to respond to the specific needs of their communities. “Our population tends not to have computers or printers at home,” she said. It wasn’t enough to deliver COVID test results to the portal, because people needed printed results to return to work or school. Without a printer, they were stuck. “We were like the take-out line at a restaurant – we not only have to contract with the state to provide nine-lane testing, we also have a multiline drive up for picking up your covid test results because people need that hard paper.”  

Building a culture of compliance

Bennett reflected on the tremendous amount of change and adaptation healthcare staff managed over the past two years. “I have to commend all hospital staff in being able to pivot and not missing a beat,” he said. His organization paused or reprioritized certain issues, but they maintained a focus on complying with regulations. That meant checking in with people regularly. That helped him assess whether people were getting the support and resources they needed related to their work. He expects to continue looking for ways to support staff. “We’ll continue to try to add flexibility to meet the needs of our staff and the needs of our patients and organization.” 

Palumbo, too, is working to meet people where they are at. She recently “camped out in the cafeteria,” she said. “I couldn’t believe the results: About 350 people came to talk to me, including residents, physicians, surgeons, nurses, case managers, and housekeeping staff.” They asked about patient privacy and other compliance issues. “So much came up during COVID but we didn’t stop to work through everything or stop to talk to each other. I’ll try to do that at least once a quarter.”  

New compliance issues

Palumbo walked through some upcoming regulatory changes she’s watching. This included the Medicare Final Physician Fee Schedule and noted that the Appropriate Use Criteria changes are delayed until the January first that follows the end of the pandemic. She encouraged everyone to understand the documentation requirements for using nurse practitioners for some portion of care as well as the changes to billing for surgeon and ICU provider time.  

New rules also allow audio-only telehealth visits for behavioral health as long as the patient wants it and the physician documents it properly.  

Balancing privacy, efficiency, safety, and cybersecurity

Lerner continues to address privacy concerns related to COVID testing and contact tracing. “We were working so hard to limit the spread of the disease in our senior living facilities,” she said. “It was hard to navigate contact tracing and privacy.” Now she is addressing cybersecurity insurance requirements, for her own organization and making sure vendors have sufficient insurance. “Moving to remote workforces and telehealth, the cybersecurity exposure is higher than it’s ever been,” she said. “For instance, people working from home might want to print documents, but we have to keep them from printing PHI at home or mailing things insecurely when someone can’t come pick it up.”  

Managing regulatory change

Lerner said she spends a lot of time looking at regulatory changes to understand their implications to her organization. “It can take us a long time to decide ‘does this apply to us?’ And then figure out what to do with it. Then we have to figure out what to do with that information in bits and pieces. It is certainly a complex, ever-changing universe on that front.” She spoke of Compliance’s key role in knitting together all that information to help the organization act on it and integrate it into daily processes.  

YouCompli sponsored MHA’s 2021 Healthcare Legal Compliance Forum. We provide a complete solution to help healthcare compliance organizations manage regulatory change. Find out more about YouCompli.  

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