The Nurse Licensure Compact has been making life for nurses easier since it was first launched in 1999, saving nurses who want to take up a job in another state the hassle of going through the process of obtaining a separate license. It’s a godsend especially for travel nurses, for whom applying for multiple licenses is a time-consuming and expensive burden.
At first, only half the states joined the NLC and expansion was slow. But the introduction of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), which provides more safety checks, has helped move things along! Last year we wrote about how Louisiana became the 31st state to join the eNLC, which is set to be implemented there (and in Kansas) on July 1. And now there is again good news for RNs and LPNs, this time from two states: Alabama and Indiana!
It takes a nurse? Moving Alabama towards the eNLC
Last month, Alabama State Rep. April Weaver and State Sen. Greg Reed introduced bills that would bring the eNLC down to the Yellowhammer State. They were assured of the support of the Alabama Board of Nursing as well as the Alabama State Nursing Association (ASNA). Weaver is a nurse herself, so she knew what the advantages could be. Reed is the Majority Leader, which boded well for the bill’s chances. At the time, the Alabama Political Reporter summed up the main advantages of the eNLC:
- Alabama nurses will find it easier to pursue a job opportunity elsewhere, whether it’s a travel nursing opportunity far away or working PRN just across the state border
- Nurses from other states with multi-state licenses could come practice in Alabama without delay, helping to alleviate nursing shortages in rural hospitals that can now find it difficult to attract new or temporary nurses
- Nurses in other states could “provide telehealth services to Alabama patients”, and the other way around
- Nurses from other states could “obtain temporary positions in the event of a natural disaster … without waiting for a declaration of emergency”
- Military spouse nurses “would also be able to easily keep working if moved to the state without having to obtain a new license”
On April 2, the Alabama Senate approved Senator Reed’s bill, SB 38, sparking enthusiastic reactions: “Come on…move us into the future of nursing!” One nurse who responded to the news explained why he was looking forward to it:
For example, I pay about $1,000 every 2 years on licensing in states. Educational requirements vary widely in states … Keeping track of what’s required in which state and when it’s due almost takes an advanced calculus degree. I don’t work in Alabama because the pay isn’t enough, but I’ll always be an Alabama nurse. [The eNLC is useful] in case I need to run home to Florence for family obligations. This allows nurses to support their families and reduces the cost and time associated with compliance.
Last Thursday, the Alabama House followed suit, passing the Senate bill without changes and unanimously: 101 votes to zero.
Once the bill is implemented, local nurses will be given a choice of keeping their single state (Alabama-only) license or getting an eNLC Multistate (Compact) License. But first, the Alabama Political Reporter explained, the bill goes to Gov. Kay Ivey. And even after she signs the bill, the Alabama Board of Nursing warned, it will take some time before nurses can fully enjoy the benefits, as the implementation phase “requires passing new rules, communicating with licensees, and completing the IT application builds necessary to run the compact”. Target date for issuing compact licenses: “This coming winter.”
Bipartisan support for the eNLC in Indiana
Earlier this year, state legislators in Indiana also launched a new push to have the state join the eNLC as well. Working across party lines, state Representatives introduced House Bill 1344, and by late January state Senators were signing on to sponsor the bill too. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the Indiana Hospital Association and the coalition of Advanced Practice Nurses in Indiana had already all signalled their support last year.
With Reps. Edward Clere, Steven Davisson and Robin Shackleford leading the way alongside Sens. Andy Zay, Ed Charbonneau and Ronald Grooms, the bill wound its way through committees and separate votes in the House and Senate. By April 17, the final version of the bill passed the House by a massive, bipartisan majority of 88 to 4 votes.
Yesterday, Healthcare Traveler Today reported that “Unless Gov. Eric Holcomb decides to veto the bill before May 1, it is expected to become a by Wednesday,” and take effect on July 1, 2019. As they point out, “it can take several weeks for a non-Indiana nurse to obtain” a license for working in the state under the current regime. Nurses who live or work just across the state border were especially disadvantaged by such bureaucratic hassles.
Healthcare client advisor Larry Jenkins explained how this new development “could greatly help hospitals fill travel jobs faster and more efficiently”:
Indiana has a ton of jobs available, but it can be a struggle to fill them because they were not a compact state, and not a lot of nurses I see have their Indiana license. This will be really helpful to get more candidates to Indiana.
From Tampa to Tacoma?
The wheels of legislative process are turning in other states as well. The Nurse Licensure Compact website has a nifty interactive map where you can see which states are already in, and which states have pending NLC legislation.
No fewer than five other states are now considering NLC bills as well that weren’t yet doing so last year: Vermont, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington. It seems inevitable that soon, it will be true: from sea to shining sea, from Tampa to Tacoma, nurses will be free to find nursing jobs without needless fuss or bother.