State takes steps to address nursing shortage

COVID-19 hospital nurse
Posted at 5:32 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 19:22:07-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — The nursing shortage in Maryland is becoming critical and with COVID-19 hospitalizations holding steady throughout September, there’s growing concern. Thursday, the state announced several steps to increase the workforce.

"I am thankful that it is being recognized," said Maryland Nurses Association President Dr. Charlotte Wood. "The influx of patients is creating a lot of stress. Nurses are getting burnt out."

These steps give hospitals maximum flexibility to recruit nurses based on their needs and use students for approved care, easing the burden on overworked health care systems.

"Now there’s an opportunity to potentially access more resources," said Wood.

The Maryland Department of Health announced hospitals can hire nurses who hold active licenses in other states.

Wood said that expands the pool of nursing candidates for hospitals and gives out-of-state nurses more opportunities to come to Maryland for work.

"That proclamation allows them a bit more leverage in terms of coming to the state and being able to access jobs without being able to go through the full process that they would normally have to go through," said Wood.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission is also urging state nursing programs to expedite graduation for qualified students.

Hospital leaders are encouraged to use nursing and physician assistant students for approved care.

Gov. Larry Hogan said while hospitalizations remain well below the pandemic surge capacity triggers, these steps are proactive.

They are also very similar to changes made under the State of Emergency, which ended in July.

Wood said because there’s not much difference, she would like to discuss with state officials about more long term solutions because the shortages are usually cyclic and predicted.

"If we can somehow put a stop in how nurses are leaving the environment, that would be very very helpful," said Wood.

Maryland Department of Health Secretary Dennis Schrader sent a letter to the state’s hospital and nursing home leaders outlining additional flexibilities they may use:

  • State health officials encourage all hospital leaders to work with their local nursing programs to ensure that hospitals can use student nurses to the maximum extent feasible.
  • State health officials encourage all hospital leaders to actively recruit nursing staff from Nurse Licensure Compact states to increase the supply of nursing personnel. The compact allows nurses to have one license but the ability to practice in multiple states.
  • Nursing students may perform the tasks of Certified Nursing Assistants with supervision.
  • Physician assistant students may practice without a license.
  • A physician may delegate to unlicensed individual aspects of care that are necessary for emergency COVID-19 treatment as determined by their clinical judgment.