Bill would allow licensed, out-of-state nurses to serve Illinois patients

Bill would allow licensed, out-of-state nurses to serve Illinois patients

To prepare for a rise in hospital visits, Illinois should remove interstate barriers for medical professionals.

An Illinois bill has the potential to increase the supply of nurses in a state that desperately needs them.

House Bill 1459 would approve the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, or eNLC. Signing the compact into law would allow nurses from 34 other states to practice immediately in Illinois.

HB 1459, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, would help ease the strain caused by the nurse shortage in Illinois, which is felt especially in rural communities. The nurse workforce is aging, with 25% to 30% set to retire in the next five years. Illinois expects a shortage of 21,000 nurses by next year according to Dr. Charlotte Warren of Lincoln Land Community College.

Currently, Illinois nurses must obtain licenses for each state in which they wish to practice. Likewise, out-of-state nurses seeking to work in Illinois must obtain the Illinois license. Under the eNLC, nurses apply for one multistate license that allows them to practice in any state that has signed on to the compact.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, or NCSB, “almost every nurse, including primary care nurses, case managers, transport nurses, school and hospice nurses, among many others, needs to routinely cross state boundaries to provide the public with access to nursing services, and a multistate license facilitates this process.”

Illinois would join 34 other states in the compact, including neighboring Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky. Indiana will come aboard in July. The eNLC also allows for telehealth medical services, empowering nurses to provide care without moving across the country or obtaining additional licensing. “In the event of a disaster, nurses from multiple states can easily respond to supply vital services,” the NCSBN notes.

Illinois’ nurse shortage will be felt more than ever during the ongoing novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. Policymakers must take the pandemic’s economic and financial risks seriously, and take significant steps to mitigate harm for state residents.

A recent report from the Illinois Policy Institute outlining recommendations for state action in response to COVID-19 includes re-evaluating medical licensing reciprocity, as part of a push in to remove barriers to maximize the supply of medical care – HB 1459 does just that.

Lawmakers should move quickly to pass HB 1459 and allow for an initial fast-track approval process as part of the state’s response to the ongoing pandemic.

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