More than a month has passed since five new states–Florida, Oklahoma, Wyoming, West Virginia and Georgia–joined the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact, which allowed these states to issue compact nursing licenses to new and practicing nurses.
Nursing and licensure boards in these states are working to meet the demand for compact nursing licenses by adapting their procedures to process federal background checks, with varying levels of success. Today, we look at the process in three of the new states. We’ll have updates from Wyoming and Georgia next week.
Oklahoma: Preparation, early applications make process smooth
The Oklahoma Board of Nursing has received 859 applications from existing license holders and 76 for endorsement, said Jackye Ward, Deputy Director of Regulatory Services for the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. Oklahoma has 56,490 registered nurses and 18,381 licensed practical nurses, according to their FY 2017 Annual Report.
The board squeezed processing time down to an average of 1.78 days, thanks to a combination of a well-prepared staff and early application acceptance date, Ward said. The board worked with state staff to accept compact nursing license applications as early as Jan. 5.
Applicants “are getting fingerprints in for background checks so quickly,” Ward said. “It’s going really well. We’ve worked very closely with applicants and provided calls and callbacks to keep people updated on the process.”
West Virginia: Interest strongest with nurses near state borders
West Virginia’s Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses is seeing similar demand, with about 1,500 out of 34,000 RNs applying for compact nursing licenses, executive director Sue Painter said.
Most of the applicants live near the border and are looking for work opportunities in nearby compact states like Kentucky and Virginia, Painter said, which is precisely why the board pushed for the state to join the eNLC.
“I was a nurse in another state and held a multistate license for a short period of time, and when I returned I went from being able to work in 25 states down to two,” Painter said. “The board has been in support of joining the eNLC for some time.”
Application turnaround time has also been fairly rapid, Painter said, mostly because of the board’s ability to accept background checks electronically, which was implemented by a stringent approval process prior to the eNLC launch. This helped cut down a potential 18 week waiting period for returned background checks to five days.
Misinformation has been the biggest speed bump in this process, as some staffing agencies have demanded for their nurses to still apply for single state licensure to work in West Virginia, but this has only happened for a handful of cases, Painter said.
Florida: Criminal background check slowing licensing process
Florida, the largest new state to join the eNLC–in terms of both active nurses and number of compact nursing license applications–is still struggling to meet the demand.
As of Feb. 19, the Florida Board of Nursing has received 9,064 applications from current RNs and LPNs to upgrade to the compact nursing license, Florida Department of Health deputy press secretary Brad Dalton said. More than 5,000 applications were received in the first eight days after eNLC implementation.
Of that number, 1,253 new compact nursing licenses have been issued, Dalton said.
“The primary deficiency with the pending applications is the Livescan (fingerprint) criminal background check,” Dalton said. “Some applicants are also having to provide additional documentation for claiming Florida as their primary state of residence.”
To address filing and processing issues, the board has revised information in their applications and on their website to hopefully help applicants better understand the background screening requirements, Dalton said.
eNLC critical to addressing nursing shortage, patient care
Despite the challenges, the boards a in new eNLC states are happy to be able to provide these new licenses for their state’s active nurses.
“Florida, along with many states in the U.S., is committed to addressing nursing shortages,” State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said in a press release. “By joining the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact we are reducing regulatory burdens on nurses with the goal of increasing patient access to quality nursing care.”
eNLC implementation probably won’t have a major effect on travel nursing in West Virginia, since most travelers would’ve already had their single state license, but the joining the compact will help reduce costs and time waiting for the old license, Painter said.
“One of the most beneficial things is that the law (eNLC) makes the practice across state lines safer because we are allowed to share discipline information,” Painter said. “It’s easier to protect the public and provide the best professional care.”
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