Nurses strike 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. 

Earlier this week, the Star Tribune reports:

…about 1,000 workers from a dozen nursing facilities joined some 4,000 janitors in strikes for better pay and working conditions.

“We are dealing with an incredible amount of short staffing,” said Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa, while picketing with workers early Tuesday at Saint Therese Senior Living of New Hope. “Workers are being mandated to work long days. And sometimes 20 to 30 days in a row. … We still have not gotten enough people back in the industry. And this has been going on for years.”

The sector was hit hard by the pandemic, in terms of seniors getting ill and also with finances and staffing. There were layoffs and retirements as well, Gulley said.

Nursing homes, like all healthcare facilities, have since had trouble finding enough workers.

Staffing is down about 25% at the 12 nursing homes where workers are striking, Gulley said.

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.