Health Kentucky Politics

Republican leaders of the Kentucky Senate have introduced a bill to try to alleviate the state’s nursing shortage by easing regulations on the industry.

Kentucky health care providers have struggled with staffing shortages throughout the coronavirus pandemic and nursing leaders say the industry had trouble attracting and retaining workers even before that.

Senate Bill 10 would expand opportunities to nurses licensed in other states or countries. Kentucky is currently one of more than two dozen states which have a reciprocity agreement that allows licensed nurses to work in states within the compact. 

Sen. Robby Mills, a Republican from Henderson and sponsor of the bill, said in a statement the measure would help the state hire nurses more quickly. 

The nursing shortage has the potential to negatively impact each of us and those we love. This bill will help make sure our health care facilities are professionally equipped to care for Kentuckians during moments of need,” Mills said.

The bill would allow the state nursing board to immediately issue temporary work permits and licenses to nurses who are licensed in a state outside of the compact, as long as they are in good standing. 

It would also allow nurses trained and licensed in other countries to practice in Kentucky, as long as they have taken and passed the National Council Licensure Examination or an exam prepared by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools International.

There are currently around 89,000 nurses registered in the state. But that’s not enough, according to Kentucky Nurses Association Executive Director Delanor Manson, and the need is expected to grow. 

“We’re increasing, we’re getting more nurses but it’s still not enough,” Manson said in a recent interview. “Our data shows the Kentucky Board of Nursing that we’re going to have a shortage within the next couple of years that is insurmountable.”

In an effort to increase the number of nursing students in Kentucky, the bill would remove limits on enrollment for any Kentucky nursing school that has at least an 80% license completion rate over the previous five years.

It would also restructure the Kentucky Board of Nursing to require members to be practicing nurses. Members will also be more geographically representative of the state as a whole.

 

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.