As with any crisis, at some point we need to pause and assess to understand lessons learned. From these lessons learned, we can better prepare ourselves for the future and for any additional emergencies or crises that may occur.
During this COVID event, we learned many things during the early stages of the pandemic. A number of states made changes and implemented new measures to ensure nurses were available to care for COVID patients in need. Some areas/states were asking for nurses from other locations to come and assist them in handling the high caseload of patients. Many of those patients were critically ill and needed high skill sets from the healthcare professionals.
Some states were even declaring states of emergency and asking Governors to lift requirements to move the needed staff at a rapid pace to care for the ill in their region. The Governors were allowing the licensure process to be expedited to move healthcare professionals at record speed through the permitting process. Meaning, nurses could apply from another state and were approved to practice in the new location, sometimes in a matter of hours.
Now, many states are currently a part of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Meaning those nurses holding a compact license may cross state lines to provide care in member states without all of the paperwork now required to go and practice in another state.
The other unique part of this program is that the requirements are standardized to protect the public. This also allows for a consistent set of practice requirements across the board, ensuring a minimal set of standards for the healthcare professional to practice under.
The need for more nurses to participate in this program could not be more evident post COVID. We need to have staff ready to deploy when and where the needs arise in rapid fashion. Their specialized skill sets are crucial during a national crisis or public emergency. We simply cannot wait for paperwork to be processed. We need the person, their knowledge and their skills at the bedside to ensure that outcomes for the patients are positive.
Reducing all the bureaucracy, paperwork and burden during the time of a crisis or national public emergency just makes reasonable sense. We need to remove the roadblocks and create a path for healthcare professionals to be deployed with their skill sets immediately when and where needed they are needed.
Let us hope and pray we do not experience another pandemic ever again. Even if we do not see another pandemic in the future, the need for compact licensure will still exist. We will always need to deploy staff to where the needs are!
As you think about healthcare needs today, you realize we have many underserved communities and populations out in the world. We need to move healthcare professionals to these regions to provide expert care and offer residents there a better way of life.
Think about how telehealth is rapidly expanding. Many patients that do not have life-threatening symptoms could be treated efficiently and more cost effectively by telehealth. Telehealth is rapidly expanding in the mental health, primary care, home care and family therapy fields. The list is endless and continues to grow. All of these areas will have needs for nurses!
We need to do all that we can and with all that is in our power to make nursing more mobile, remove the barriers and shift to a model of one, unified standard for licensure. So, now I am speaking to you nurse to nurse… if you haven’t applied for your compact licensure, now is the time!