Health care worker shortage shows why Minnesota should join the Nurse Licensure Compact

Of Minnesota’s many supposed “labor shortages,” one of the most pressing is the shortage of nurses. WCCO reports that:

…Minnesota’s workforce agencies are making a push to fill tens of thousands of open health care jobs, hoping to avoid a care crisis.

“We can’t be in a situation where nursing and residential care facilities are closing just as more and more people are needing those kind of services,” said Oriane Casale, Assistant Director of the Minnesota DEED Labor Market Information Office.

But that’s the reality facing Minnesota’s healthcare system unless something changes fast. 

According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, there are more than 45,000 open jobs in the state’s biggest job field.

“Home health aides and personal care aides, that’s the signal largest occupation in Minnesota. It’s over 100,000 workers strong. It had some of the highest numbers of job vacancies,” Casale said.

Right now, there are more than 9,000 open jobs just for home health and personal care aides, and thousands more for nursing assistants, LPNS and RNs.

Wages may be a factor, but even RNs, who make the most of the four groups, still have the second-highest number of openings. 

One way to tackle this shortage would be for Minnesota to join the national Nurse Licensure Compact.

In our Policy Briefing on the subject, we quote the Minnesota Board of Nursing’s (MBN) description:

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows a nurse (RN and LPN/VN) to have one compact license in the nurse’s primary state of residence (the home state) with authority to practice in person or via telehealth in other compact states (remote states). The nurse must follow the nurse practice act of each state. The mission of the Nurse Licensure Compact is: The Nurse Licensure Compact advances public protection and access to care through the mutual recognition of one state-based license that is enforced locally and recognized nationally.

Currently 34 states are members of the compact.

And yet, for all their professed concern for staff shortages, the MNA opposes Minnesota’s entry into the NLC. In 2015, the MNA wrote:

The Compact is a direct threat to MNA as a professional association and sole collective bargaining agent for nurses in MN. No other large healthcare/labor states have allowed adoption of this Compact.

Fortunately, their membership feels very differently. The MBN says:

Nurses frequently contact the Board of Nursing questioning when Minnesota will join the Nurse Licensure Compact. To address these queries, the Minnesota Board of Nursing (MBN), in collaboration with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), conducted a web survey of all registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) with an active license in Minnesota to assess nurses’ knowledge of and opinions about the NLC. The survey was comprised of 12 questions and was sent in February 2017, to 122,973 nurses of which 20,834 responded.

Overall, more than 80% of respondents to the survey were in favor of Minnesota joining the NLC.

Unions often cloak their desire for more cash in the shroud of “public safety.” If the MNA is serious about addressing staffing shortages and helping the state’s patients, it should drop its self-serving opposition to Minnesota joining the NLC.