A new report from the Office of Professional Regulation says that Vermont would benefit in a number of ways from joining a multi-state nursing compact, but acknowledges such a change would also have financial impact.
The Nursing Licensure Compact is an agreement between states that allows nurses that live in a member state to have just one license, but the ability to practice in other states.
The recent Vermont report finds that “there are significant benefits to participating in licensure compacts for nurses, including interstate portability of licenses, interstate collaboration, and access to information about licensees.”
Meredith Roberts, executive director of American Nurses Association-Vermont, said the group supports the move to join the compact.
“It will make it more flexible, and it will make it better for nurses as far as their ability to go other places to practice,” Roberts said. “All nurses take the same national exam, so you would think we would be able to practice in all states and it makes a lot of sense to have this happen.”
Twenty-nine states are in the compact currently, including Maine and New Hampshire. Lawmakers are considering bills that would allow Vermont to enter.
The legislature asked the Office of Professional Regulation to study the proposal. The office's report found that while joining the compact has benefits, it will cost the state money.
The report finds that about 25 percent of the nurses working in Vermont are from out of state. If Vermont joins the compact, and those nurses no longer have to pay state licensing fees, the state stands to lose almost $1 million off its annual $4 million board of nursing budget.
“I was kind of surprised because there is quite a cost,” Roberts said. “It is a concern that this will hit the state, and does that mean we will see an increase in licensing fees? That cost hits new nurses hard, especially when they are coming out of school with a debt burden.”
The report said joining the compact could help Vermont’s nursing shortage, but Roberts cautions that is no sure thing.
“The staffing problem is a workforce problem that is not limited to Vermont,” Roberts said. “So it is not going to solve the staffing shortage ... and it’s only going to get worse because we're having aging nurses and an increased aging population that needs care. And all the predictions say the nurse shortage will get worse.”