Opinion: State lawmakers have an opportunity to help patients, nurses, hospitals with SB 5499

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center states that multistate license holders not only increase access to care across state lines when necessary, they also maintain and augment patient safety.


Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center states that multistate license holders not only increase access to care across state lines when necessary, they also maintain and augment patient safety

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

A House committee was scheduled to have a public hearing today (March 22), as it again considers allowing Washington state to join the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact. Doing so could benefit patient access to needed care, helping supply caregivers promptly in pandemic times and given our state’s nursing shortage. Additionally, joining the compact is a worker rights issue. Nurses should be able to take their skills from state to state with fewer unnecessary barriers.

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

Senate Bill 5499 passed in the Senate, while a compact-joining bill in the House did not. Hopefully, that does not spell doom for this second consideration of the good policy idea.

Opposition to the idea has been about safety and registration. Keeping track of nurses in our state can be handled and should not hold up our state from acquiring this needed workforce solution. And safety concerns are outdated. 

Safety is prioritized in the compact. Nurses must comply with the practice laws of each state, compact states have the authority to take disciplinary action against violators, and a study comparing discipline rates of multistate-license holders to single-state license holders shows compact participation doesn’t pose an elevated risk to patient safety. From the study: “The overall discipline rates of nurses in NLC and non-NLC states were virtually identical (0.24% versus 0.23%). However, a further breakdown of the data revealed the annual discipline rate of nurses holding single-state licenses across both non-NLC and NLC states was between two to four times higher than the rate of multistate license holders.” Read the full study here

Multistate license holders not only increase access to care across state lines when necessary, they also maintain and augment patient safety. 

I wrote a white paper in the fall about the compact and the outdated arguments against it. Read it for more information, and hope the House makes progress on joining the Nurse Licensure Compact. 

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.

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