New Change To Licensure Will Make It Easier To Be A Traveling Nurse

Nurses who travel from state to state may be able to finally use only one license. According to USA Today, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has launched an updated version of the Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC.

Previously launched in 2000 due to a shortage of nurses across the nation, the NLC is a multistate license that enables a traveling nurse to practice medical care across state lines. However, many states failed to sign the licensing agreement due to problems with the NLC’s background checks.

The original compact didn’t require nurses to undergo federal fingerprint criminal background checks. It also didn’t, and still doesn’t, require nurses to abide by the specific training techniques taught in specific states such as California.

The new compact now requires these background checks, thereby opening the doors to more states to sign the agreement. According to Jim Puente, the overseer of the NLC, as many as 29 states have signed the agreement and nine more have legislation in process to join.

However, California doesn’t plan to join the compact due to concern over quality standards. Kaiser Health News reports that California already requires its nurses to undergo criminal background checks and that the state has high training standards officials worry may be compromised by traveling nurses trained in other areas. Oregon, Nevada, and Washington also plan to decline signing the NLC.

Despite these concerns, advocates of the NLC say the multistate license would help to fill in the gaps where nurses are needed. As of October 2017, there were approximately 3.3 million nurses currently registered in the United States. Additionally, statewide licenses would reduce the response time of medical professionals and reduce stress during natural disasters.

“The nurse shortage tends to wax and wane regionally,” said AMN Healthcare chief clinical officer Marcia Faller. “So being able to move nurses where the needs are is really, really important.”

Approximately 42% of millennials say they’re influenced to choose a travel destination based on photos shared on social media by friends and family. Lauren Bond, 27, says she became a traveling nurse because she wanted to travel before settling down in a single state.

Bond currently holds licenses in five states and Washington, D.C. while keeping a detailed spreadsheet of expiration dates, state requirements, and license fees. “It would make things a lot easier [to have a multistate license],” she said. “One license for the country and you are good to go.”

However, despite the inconvenience of multiple state licenses, the concerns over the quality of medical treatment and performance aren’t limited only to California. Opponents of the NLC argue that different states have different standards and that traveling nurses in one state may lack the necessary experience to practice in another.

“The ability to control the standards of training and quality are of some concern to use,” said the Rhode Island United Nurses and Allied Professionals president Linda McDonald.

Catherine Kennedy, secretary of the California Nurses Association, agreed with McDonald. “We really want to make sure that nurses who are entering our state and taking care of our patients are competent and qualified,” she said.

Kennedy also noted that while other states may have a nursing shortage, California doesn’t. Even without the compact, she said, recruiting nurses is relatively painless because of California’s high-paying salaries and the state’s precise nurse-to-patient ratios.

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