Last week Governor Rickets signed into law a consolidation bill which included one of my own bills. The Health and Human Services Committee added my bill, LB 342, into Sen. Blood’s priority bill, LB 88. I believe the resulting bill will be very good for Nebraska.
LB 88 will be good for our state because it ensures Nebraska’s participation in the new Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (ENLC). The ENLC allows nurses to have a single multistate nursing license so they may practice in their home state as well as in another compact state. For instance, a nurse living in Kimball, who is licensed in Nebraska, would be able to work in both Kimball and in Pine Bluffs without having to obtain a separate nursing license for the state of Wyoming. In the event of a natural disaster, the ENLC also allows nurses from out of state to respond readily in order to help those in need of medical attention without unnecessary interference from state governments.
The main reason we need LB 88 is because it helps us address the current nursing shortage we have in our state. Many of our hospitals, medical clinics, and nursing homes already struggle to find the qualified help they need. The aging Baby Boom population is especially increasing our demand for nurses. The Nebraska Center for Nursing expects half of all of Nebraska’s nurses to retire within the next ten years. Nebraska’s shortfall is projected to be nearly 4,000 nurses by 2020. Membership in the ENLC will encourage nurses living in other states to move to Nebraska. It does this by removing the expensive barrier of repetitive and redundant licensing.
Another benefit of this law is that it amends the Nurse Practice Act to streamline licensure for military spouses. This legislation allows military spouses with nursing licenses, who often relocate every two years, to practice in Nebraska. Because licensing can be very expensive, I do not want the spouses of our military personnel to have to shoulder this burden every time they move to another state.
The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact also does much to keep patients safe. All nurses practicing under the multistate license must meet a minimum set of licensure requirements, including a fingerprinted federal criminal background check. The requirements contained in the ENLC represent the highest regulatory standards for licensed health care professionals in the country, and nurses who fail to meet these standards will not be eligible for the multistate license nor the privileges which accompany it.