Nurses strike shows why Minnesota should join the Nurse Licensure Compact

On Monday, the Minnesota Reformer reported:

The largest private-sector nurses strike in U.S. history began on Monday with some 15,000 nurses launching a three-day strike at 15 hospitals across the Twin Cities and Duluth area.

The strike comes after months of failed negotiations as nurses seek higher staffing levels and 30% wage increases over the next three years. Hospitals have countered with 10% to 12% increases over three years and say they can’t afford to go any higher.

Explaining the decision to strike, the Reformer goes on:

The Minnesota Nurses Association has made patient safety a central issue of their campaign and blasted hospital leaders for chronic understaffing, which they say is leading to more patient injuries and nurse burnout.

A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health shows that adverse health events were up 33% in 2021 from 2020, while a recent survey from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute found a little more than half of nurses are considering leaving the profession in the next year, mainly because of what they say are unsafe staffing levels.

“Staffing has been the real roadblock for the nurses,” said Sam Fettig, the union spokesman. “Hospitals have not offered a substantive counter proposal at all.”

If the MNA is concerned about low levels of staffing in Minnesota, they should support our state joining 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.