(The Center Square) — Rhode Island has joined a multi-state pact allowing nurses to practice across state lines, which Gov. Dan Mckee says will help prepare for future health emergencies.
McKee said the state Department of Health is now a member of the national Nurse Licensure Compact, allowing Rhode Island nurses with multi-state licenses to be able to work in other member states.
Currently, 41 states belong to the compact. New Hampshire, Delaware, New Jersey and Maine are among its members.
“Nurses are the backbone of our state’s healthcare facilities,” McKee said in a statement. “Amid the current national healthcare worker shortage, we are doing everything we can to make it convenient and attractive for them to work in Rhode Island.”
This change affects registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who are currently licensed in Rhode Island, as well as certain individuals who are applying for preliminary licenses.
Rhode Island Executive Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Charest said joining the licensure pact “lessens the administrative burden on nurses and gives our state access to more licensed professionals.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, states relaxed medical licensure requirements to bring in more physicians, nurses and other medical professionals to treat COVID-19 patients.
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services temporarily waived the requirement that physicians and nurses be licensed in the state where the patient they are treating is located. Those rules were lifted when the federal public health emergency ended last May.
Rhode Island and other states also took steps to relax requirements for telemedicine, allowing physicians to treat patients online and over the telephone instead of being physically present. The move was part of a broader effort to brace for a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Utpala Bandy, interim director of the state Public Health Department, said nurses who practice in Rhode Island with multi-state licenses “will be held to the same professional standards as a nurse with a single-state license.
“Our standards for quality will remain as high as ever,” she said in a statement. “Our goal in joining this compact is reducing the time that qualified nurses spend filling out multiple licensing applications and making these workers available to patients for care as soon as possible in Rhode Island.”