Did New Mexico Just Fix the National Nursing Shortage by a Model Bipartisan Bill?
Senate Bill 1
Nurse Licensure Compact
Sponsor: Gay G. Kernan (R-NM)
Everyone who follows the issue knows that there is a dire shortage of nurses, especially in rural areas in America — such areas as New Mexico. When a hospital doesn’t have enough nurses, patients can wait for hours to receive medicine or other treatments that they need. This delay can even be dangerous. A lot of thought is going into how to lure nurses more effectively into rural areas.
Senate Bill 1 looks like a good solution to this. It is a health care act that Rep Gay Kernan (R-NM) originally proposed in New Mexico.
The Senate Act states that the states have found that the health and safety of the general public are affected by enforcement activities related to state nurse licensure laws. In simpler terms, the Act finds that since nurses currently have to re-license state by state in order to travel to give care to patients, this situation is harmful to people’s general wellbeing. The Bill proposes that there should be greater coordination by states with each other to regulate and license nurses, and that refiorin of “licensure” m this way should be required.
The purpose of the Nurse Licensure Compact, as the bill states, a Compact which this Act amends, was to “facilitate the states’ responsibility to protect the public’s health and safety,” to “ensure and encourage the cooperation of party states in the areas of nurse licensure and regulation,” to “promote compliance with the laws governing the practice of nursing in each jurisdiction,” and generally to streamline the ability of nurses to move for work from state to state without re-licensing. But there were problems with the last Compact that this Act assesses.
Senate Bill 1 changes and some say improves the original Compact, which enabled nurses with a multi-state license to work “physically, telephonically, or electronically” in states that are part of the agreement. This could be cumbersome in the past. In order to get a multi-state license, in the past, nurses had to pass a number of background checks, had to meet uniform licensure requirements and also had to pay fees for every state in which they wished to work. Many states were slow to join the regional Compact as they felt that there were not sufficiently effective background checks.
If this bill passes, then new applicants for nursing licenses will have to meet the uniform licensure requirement that is good in all of the states that are part of this Compact. Nurses working in the eNLC (“Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact”) states after this bill passes, if it does, will be held accountable to the Nurse Practice Act of the state where the patient is located — meaning that there will still be checks and balances on nursing quality. There will also be better background checks. Overall, supporters say, this helps with the former disruption in personnel and exposes that use to be attached to “traveling nurses.”
Passage of the bill would also mean that nurses who are certified in other states can work in states such as New Mexico, for instance, providing broader health care coverage for patients. The amended Compact makes it easier for rural hospitals to enlist traveling nurses from across the country.
In a time raven by partisanship, it’s refreshing to see that this crisis in health care, with its relatively simple and cost-effective solution, is a bipartisan issue; both Democrats and Republicans are in consensus about the priority that nurses in both New Mexico, and across state lines, should be able to keep practicing without interruption.
This is a popular bill in New Mexico as well. Nursing students at New Mexico State University Carlsbad, for instance, are in favor of the bill because, they say, New Mexico is made up mostly of rural areas, which is why recruiting healthcare professionals such as nurses is especially difficult in that state as is. State Senators passed this bill by a vote of 39-0. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed it into law on January 18th.
It turns out, in this case at least, that grassroots activism really does work. The fight for states to join the compact was led by many states’ nurses’ associations, often with the support of “ordinary people” organized in other groups, including the AARP and the National Military Families Association.
Congratulations, nurses! And thank you! And it’s rare to say, but congratulations, Members of Congress, for actually working together to deliver a sensible fix.