Minnesota should join the national Nurse Licensure Compact

In our new policy briefing “Minnesota should join the national Nurse Licensure Compact,” we explain why state policymakers should sign our state up to this arrangement.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Minnesota needed all the qualified medical professionals it could get, but licensing proved to be an obstacle to qualified health care workers from outside the state putting their skills to use here. Gov. Tim Walz eventually signed an order allowing health care workers licensed in other states to work in our state, but a permanent solution would be for our state to join the national Nurse Licensure Compact.

The compact allows a nurse to have one license in their primary state of residence with authority to practice in person or via telehealth in other compact states, with the requirement that they follow the nurse practice act of each state. As the Minnesota Board of Nursing says, the compact “advances public protection and access to care through the mutual recognition of one state-based license that is enforced locally and recognized nationally.” At present, 34 states are members of the compact.

This policy seems, on the face of it, absurd, so why do we have it? The answer is the power of vested interests.

Opposition to Minnesota’s entry into the compact comes from the Minnesota Nurses Association. The nurses union called the compact “a direct threat to MNA as a professional association and sole collective bargaining agent for nurses in MN.” Yet, when the Minnesota Board of Nursing surveyed all registered nurses and licensed practical nurses in 2017, “more than 80% of respondents to the survey were in favor of Minnesota joining the NLC.”

As noted, Walz temporarily relaxed some of these restrictions during the pandemic. But if this is good policy in bad times, how can it be sound policy in good times?

The health care of ordinary Minnesotans should come before vested interests. As the pandemic has shown, Minnesota should join the Nurse Licensure Compact.

This letter originally appeared in the Fargo-Moorhead Forum