Occupational Licensing Laws Suspended During COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, May 14, 2020 Posted in Industry News

occupational licensing lawsA great benefit of being a travel nurse who lives in a state that recognizes the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) is the ability to use your license all around the country. The eNLC allows nurses to practice in every state that recognizes the standards of the compact. The problem is, not all 50 states recognize it. Generally, only about 34 of the 50 states recognize the eNLC, which can limit where travel nurses take assignments.

But, in times of dire need, nonconforming states have been known to drop their occupational licensing laws and recognize licensing similar to the eNLC. Now is one of those times.

The eNLC makes travel nursing easier

For travel nurses who want the greatest possible choice when it comes to taking assignments, the eNLC is a staple license. It opens doors for enhanced mobility and minimizes the hassle of applying for and receiving licenses for multiple states. Without the eNLC, travel nurses may be limited in their assignment options or forced to spend time and money on applications and verifications before accepting a new assignment.

Although the eNLC provides more options for healthcare providers across the country, not all states are part of the compact. California, Washington, and New York are a few of those non-compact states. This means that choosing an assignment in a non-compact state may still pose licensing challenges.

In light of COVID-19, however, many states that aren’t part of the eNLC are loosening or suspending occupational licensing laws, which often applies to nursing licenses. This means that nurses holding an eNLC or a state-specific license might be able to travel to and serve other states much more easily than before.

What eNLC acceptance means for states and nurses

Because of COVID-19, states across the nation are scrambling for ways to streamline their economic and healthcare processes. A top priority is ensuring an adequate number of doctors and nurses to meet the growing demand for healthcare. One way states are able to do this is by relaxing their restrictions on occupational licensing, so providers can more easily practice across state lines.

nurse certification chart

Many states have enacted similar temporary suspensions in the past, often following natural disasters. Now, some states are implementing emergency procedures that allow nurses to practice in those states without holding the state-specific license. Rather than undergo a full application process, nurses may simply have their current license verified before beginning to practice.

While some states are forming state-specific guidelines regarding their occupational licensing suspensions, other states like Illinois are embracing the eNLC to change the way nursing licensure works during the current pandemic and beyond.

This effectively does two things. First, it allows nurses to begin practicing in other states much faster and easier than before. Second, it provides states hit the hardest by COVID-19 with additional resources for their hospitals and care centers. In at-risk areas, having an appropriate nursing staff can mean the difference between life and death for hundreds or thousands of patients.

Travel nurses are uniquely poised to offer their services at this time. They may be able to take an assignment in a particular state without waiting for their state-specific license application to be processed. Nurses holding one or more state-specific licenses or an eNLC license should contact their recruiter if they are interested in working in a state not covered by their current licenses.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your licensing as a travel nurse. Make sure your eNLC is valid before applying for assignments. If you have any questions about your compact or what the suspension of occupational licensing restrictions means during the current pandemic, ask your Health Providers Choice recruiter. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.