Legislation pending in the State House would quickly increase the supply of well-qualified nurses who would first have to undergo rigorous background checks, and then make the nurses available to fill vacancies in underserved areas, or quickly respond to patient surges due to disasters. The legislation would also allow Massachusetts nurses to continue follow-up care with their out-of-state patients once those patients leave Massachusetts, and permit nurse educators to teach via technology and help increase the registered nurse (R.N.) pipeline.
H1944, An Act Relative to Nurse Licensure Compact in Massachusetts, allows R.N.s to have one multistate license from the state in which they reside, with the privilege to practice in their home state and all others that are members of the Compact. The bill is especially timely for Massachusetts where hospitals are facing an R.N. vacancy rate of 5.3% and are struggling to fill 1,200 full-time, budgeted nursing positions.
“Adoption of the NLC in Massachusetts would provide an immediate solution to the nurse staffing challenges that beleaguer acute care hospitals and other healthcare providers by permitting qualified out-of-state nurses to care for patients across the care continuum,” MHA’s Sr. Director of Strategy and Government Advocacy Emily Dulong testified before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing last Tuesday. “It would also enhance our members’ ability to respond to the rapidly changing landscape of healthcare delivery, increase access to quality nursing care for patients in more rural parts of the state and in community-based settings, and allow for better emergency preparedness and more rapid staff response in times of disaster.”
The licensing requirements under the Compact are more stringent than those in Massachusetts. In addition to meeting 11 uniform licensure requirements, a nurse who wishes to obtain a multistate license must meet his or her home state’s requirements and submit to a federal criminal background check. (Currently, nurses applying for state licensure in Massachusetts are not required to undergo a background check, although they typically go through one upon employment in a hospital.)
“A line we’ve often heard that is meant to create fear around the quality of care provided by Compact nurses is, ‘Would you really want a nurse from Georgia, or the Carolinas, or Arizona, providing care to your patients?’” Dulong told the committee. “Our response is very straightforward: if every nurse in the country has to pass the same test, and the requirements for national licensure are more stringent than those in the commonwealth, the answer is unequivocally, ‘Yes’.”
In addition to MHA, groups supporting the Nurse Licensure Compact include the Organization of Nurse Leaders, American Nurses Association Massachusetts, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing, Massachusetts-Rhode Island League for Nursing, Emergency Nurses Association Massachusetts State Council, Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, Case Management Society of New England, Night Nurse, Maxim Healthcare Services, AARP Massachusetts, Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, Atrius Health, and Fresenius Medical Care North America.