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Indiana lawmakers want to streamline licensing requirements during nursing shortage

Two nurses work at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. In the foreground, a nurse wearing blue gloves holds a pen and syringe in their hand.
Farah Yousry
/
Side Effects Public Media
House Bill 1259 makes the only requirement for instructors a nursing license, eliminating the 18-month minimum on clinical experience needed. The bill’s author said the institutions are “best equipped” to judge who has the experience to educate nursing students.

Indiana needs more nursing school graduates to meet the state’s current health care needs, but nursing schools say they don’t have enough faculty. A House committee passed a bill to remove the clinical experience requirement for instructors to help meet those needs.

House Bill 1259 makes the only requirement for instructors a nursing license, eliminating the 18-month minimum on clinical experience needed. The bill’s author, House Public Health Committee Chair Brad Barrett (R-Richmond), said the institutions are “best equipped” to judge who has the experience to educate nursing students.

Jason Gilbert, IU Health’s chief nurse executive, said it employs more than 1,000 travel nurses and has “historically high vacancy rates” across Indiana.

“While we have not closed beds and in many cases have expanded access to care, I continue to worry about being able to sustain health care access because of our workforce shortages,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said this bill would help eliminate barriers to licensing in the state.

The CEO of the Indiana State Nurses Association testified its membership is divided on the issue.

The bill also allows the state board of nursing to issue licenses to registered nurses from other countries by examination, not just endorsement. Nursing associations say the state’s process creates barriers for licensing qualified nurses from other countries.

Matilde Upano, the president of the Philippine Nurses Association of Indiana, said Indiana needs to “streamline” the licensure process and attract qualified professional nurses.

“Recruitment of nurses from outside the United States, using best practices and undergoing rigorous licensure processes has been critical to helping our health system cope with extraordinary staffing challenges,” Upano said.

READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process

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The CEO of the Indiana State Nurses Association said the changes would allow Indiana to compete with other states “in the recruitment of qualified nurses.”

Other sections of the bill affect other faculty requirements for nursing schools and allow those with a student permit to perform certain respiratory care procedures on children.

A majority of the discussion on the bill was focused on addressing the nursing shortage. Before voting yes, Rep. Matt Hostetler (R-Patoka) raised concerns over what might be causing the nursing shortage. He said more than 100,000 nurses in the country have left the industry since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don't know why that is, but I think that's something the industry needs to look at,” Hostetler said. “It seems like they drove a bunch out, and now they want to replace them with other people.”

The bill passed unanimously out of the House Public Health Committee.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

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Abigail Ruhman covers statewide health issues. Previously, they were a reporter for KBIA, the public radio station in Columbia, Missouri. Ruhman graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.