Illinois Senate committee passes bill to help nursing shortage

Illinois Senate committee passes bill to help nursing shortage

Sen. Feigenholtz’s Senate Bill 2068 would add Illinois to 34 other states participating in the Nurse Licensure Compact. Career moves, volunteer work and pandemic relief would all benefit.

As COVID-19 fatigue takes its toll on health care workers, the Illinois Senate passed a bipartisan bill out of the Licensed Activities Committee today that could help remedy Illinois’ nursing shortage.

Senate Bill 2068, sponsored by state Sen. Sarah Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, would add Illinois to the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact, making it easier for nurses such as Iowa native Madalyn Mauro to put her critical skills to work in Illinois.

“Getting the Illinois license took months because they aren’t in the compact. I had to drive five hours from Des Moines to Chicago just to get fingerprinted because they wouldn’t accept Iowa prints,” she said.

Crippled by a nursing shortage even before the pandemic struck, more than half of current Illinois registered nurses aged 55 or older are approaching retirement. Licensed practical nurses in Illinois face a similar shortage. Illinois’ outdated licensing policies have provided extra barriers for those who would want to work in the state.

“As Illinois faces a shortage of health care workers, the Illinois Senate should be commended for the efforts to remedy the situation and provide support nurses desperately need,” said Amy Korte, vice president of policy at Illinois Policy.

Illinois is one of only a few states that requires its own nursing license without offering reciprocity for licenses from other states, creating a costly and time-intensive obstacle for nurses who want to work in the state. Each nurse wishing to practice in Illinois must pay $50 for a license as well as fees for fingerprinting and background checks.

All these extra steps prevent care providers from getting to patients where they’re needed most desperately in a timely manner. When COVID-19 hit, Mauro’s hiring process for a nurse job in Chicago was put on hold.

“It put me in a tough situation,” Mauro said. “I needed a job, but I couldn’t transfer my [Illinois] license. I had to get a new license just to get a job back in Iowa, which cost hundreds of dollars.”

Joining the compact means Illinois would join 34 other states including Midwest neighboring states Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Missouri to accept multistate licenses for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses to practice in the state. Illinois would still maintain its own nursing licenses and recognize existing licenses, and also allow nurses with compact licenses to practice in the state.

The bill passed committee unanimously and was added to the agreed bill list on the Illinois Senate floor. In the House it’s sponsored by state Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside.

“Adding Illinois to the Nurse Licensure Compact can help alleviate the long shifts and exhaustion nurses have faced during the past year, while also opening up career and volunteer opportunities for Illinois nurses,” Korte said. “The license has worked well for nearly three dozen other states, and Illinois has a lot to gain by joining.”

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