By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Staffing shortages at hospitals across the U.S. are worsening helped along by state boards and other licensing authorities taking months to process nursing licenses, a recent NPR survey claims. As a result, thousands of new nurses who want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic are reportedly getting sidelined by state bureaucratic red tape. Now, it’s resulted in a considerable backlog in nurses waiting for jobs.
State nursing boards are usually created and charged with safeguarding the public. But there are those who claim they have become an obstacle to ensuring public safety by preventing qualified nurses from getting into the workforce. A review of statistics from nursing boards shows that new applications are taking months to be reviewed and approved when basic vetting should take only weeks.
An Investigation Into Nursing Applications.
In 2021, National Public Radio (NPR) examined license applications and found that newly graduated nurses and those moving to new states often get sidelined by state bureaucracies for months, waiting for state approval to treat patients. This is occurring at a time of extreme nursing shortages and increased demand for nurses to work during a pandemic.
Of course, we may have those who want to challenge whether or not there is a pandemic still going on. But we feel that those nurses working in hospitals right now can tell us. We also believe that not enough time has passed since the last wave went over us to state that the pandemic has ended.
The Following are some key findings from NPR’s investigation:
1. How long is too long to wait for your license? Almost one (1) in ten (10) nurses issued new licenses last year waited six (6) months or longer, according to an analysis of licensing records from 32 states. More than a third of these 226,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses had to wait at least three (3) months. The processing time varies because each state has its own rules. Generally, state boards have to check a nurse’s education, run a criminal background check, and wait for new graduates to pass a national exam. This all does take time. However, some of the procedures, such as fingerprinting and background checks have speeded up tremendously over the past decade.
2. Applicants are stuck in license limbo. Some state nursing boards blame slow processing times on staff shortages, increased workloads, and remote work. California’s nursing board, for example, has just 47 people on staff handling tens of thousands of applications for licenses. That’s for a state with nearly a half-million RNs. To put it into more perspective, that works out to 10,000 nurses for each employee to assist.
3. When does the clock start? NPR’s investigation found that states often start the clock on processing times only after an application is marked complete. Some nurses NPR spoke with described scenarios where they spent weeks or longer arguing with the licensing authority that their applications were complete. In addition, many state boards don’t count that lost time when measuring how long it takes to process an application.
4. Some states aren’t part of any interstate agreement. Several large states have refused to join the Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to use licenses across state lines — sort of like a driver’s license lets you drive across state lines. One reason cited for this is that many nursing boards make most of their money, sometimes tens of millions of dollars, just from the licensing fees.
Overall, researchers found that one (1) in ten (10) nurses who received new licenses from nursing boards in 2021 waited six (6) months or longer. More than one-third of the nurses waited at least three (3) months. NPR reported: “[Nurses are] emotionally exhausted. They’re physically exhausted. We add to that the frustration of not being able to get your license,” Betsy Snook, BSN, RN, who is CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, reportedly told NPR.
To learn some helpful tips if you are applying for your nursing license, click here to read my prior blog.
Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.
If you are applying for a nursing or health care license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
“Nurses are waiting 6 months or more for licenses despite hospitals’ need for nurses.” Georgia Public Broadcasting. (March 10, 2022). Web.
Fast, Austin. “Nurses are waiting months for licenses as hospital staffing shortages spread.” NPR. (March 11, 2022). Web.
Gooch, Kelly. “Nurse license wait times complicating staffing shortages.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (March 11, 2022). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
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