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Bill aims for Minnesota to join Nurse Licensure Compact

(The Center Square) – Minnesota Republican lawmakers pitched a bill they claim could ease the health care labor shortage and allow nurses to work in up to 39 other states.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, sponsored Senate File 2302 that aims for Minnesota to join 39 other states as members of the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

“Hospitals and health care facilities across the state are struggling with severe staffing shortages, and patients are the ones bearing the brunt,” Nelson said in a morning press conference. “Everyone is doing their best, but red tape slows the process down considerably. By joining the Nurse Licensure Compact, Minnesota can cut through the bureaucracy and get more high-quality nurses on the job faster, so they can keep providing high-quality care to our loved ones.”

Nelson pointed to Gov. Tim Walz temporarily allowing, via executive order, out-state medical workers to work in Minnesota as a “pilot program” for this legislation.

The NLC is a national agreement that allows nurses in participating states to obtain one valid license across all member states. Nurses with an NLC license can practice in other NLC states, improve access to care, alleviate staff shortages, reduce costs, and eliminate unnecessary red tape.

Dominic Pahl, a nurse and nurse manager for Mayo Clinic, said Minnesota joining the NLC could improve care in Minnesota and across state lines. He said Mayo’s remote monitoring team cared for more than 7,500 patients enrolled in this program and more than 5,800 patients outstate.

“This program and others like it continue to provide a care delivery method that reduces health care costs, provides a timely detection of a need for intervention, and enhances the engagement of patients in their care,” Pahl said.

The NLC has a national database of violations to expel bad actors. All nurses practicing under a multistate license must meet a minimum set of licensure requirements, including a fingerprint federal criminal background check.

The NLC has been operating for more than 18 years. The NLC’s licensing requirements are the same as Minnesota’s, and applicants are required to pass a federal criminal background check, so patients in every compact state – including Minnesota – can be assured the same high quality of care.

Dr. Connie White Delaney, Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, said Minnesota follows a “100-year-old” system that often discourages nurses and clinical staff from working in Minnesota and nearby states.

For example, Pahl said he’s working to obtain separate licensure in Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona — all NLC states — he would already be qualified for if the state legislature passed this bill that was signed into law.

Red tape can add up quickly, Pahl said. Without joining the NLC, he must apply through four separate processes that include paperwork, fingerprinting, and completing continuing education credits in every additional state, on top of Minnesota’s existing requirements.

“Joining the compact is also important for patients,” Mayo Clinic nurse said Dennis Stacy said in a statement. “Our patients live across state lines, travel south for the winter, or—for military families—must move wherever duty calls. They should still be able to work with their care teams without forcing Minnesota nurses to hold licenses in dozens of states.”

Kelly Hagen, the vice president of Nursing & Clinical Services at Sanford Health’s Bemidji Medical Center and Clinics, backed the bill.

“Minnesota has always been a leader in health care,” Hagen said in a statement. “But it takes work to stay on top. Joining the compact will ensure we continue to lead across states in care delivery. Our nurses and patients deserve to have the same opportunities as their peers in other states.”

The bill was referred to the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

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