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Vermont Should Join Nursing Compact, Regulators Say

Nurses wearing blue scrubs look at a clipboard
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Vermont's Office of Professional Regulation published a survey asking nurses with Vermont licenses if they support joining the Nurse Licensure Compact. Registered nurses from the compact's member states can work in the other states without a new license.

The Vermont Secretary of State's Office of Professional Regulation will ask lawmakers to pass legislation next year that allows Vermont to join the Nurse Licensure Compact. Registered nurses from the compact's member states — there are currently 34 — can work in any of the other states without getting a new license.

The Office of Professional Regulation recently published a survey that went out to all of the registered nurses that have a Vermont license.

Among all of the nurses who answered the survey — who live both in and outside of the state — about 59% said they supported joining the compact, while about 25% said they opposed the move. When looking just at respondents who live in Vermont, about 53% of them were in support of joining while about 33% were opposed.

"The results really do show that Vermont’s nurses are interested in the compact,” said Lauren Hibbert, the director of the Office of Professional Regulation.

Hibbert said there are two different bills ready and she wants to work with the Legislature this session to help Vermont join the Nurse Licensure Compact.

"What we're seeing right now with the nursing shortage is really a workforce crisis. And so I think we need to do something different to try to attract new folks. I believe that the compact absolutely does that." — Diane Sullivan, Pine Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

recent report by the state’s Rural Health Services Task Force says that there will be almost 4,000 nursing vacancies between now and the spring of 2020. Supporters of the compact say it could be a way to address Vermont’s nursing shortage. 

"What we’re seeing right now with the nursing shortage is really a workforce crisis,” said Diane Sullivan, the administrator at Pine Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brattleboro. “And so I think we need to do something different to try to attract new folks. I believe that the compact absolutely does that.”

Sullivan said about a quarter of her staff live outside the state.

Both Maine and New Hampshire are members of the compact. According to the Office of Professional Regulation survey, the Vermont counties along the eastern border generally had higher percentages of respondents not opposed to joining the compact, compared to other counties in the state.

But not everybody thinks it’s a good idea.

Deb Snell is a nurse at UVM Medical Center and president of Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, the union representing UVM nurses. Snell said if Vermont joins the compact it will make it easier for Vermont nurses to work out of state.

“I just have grave concerns with the shortage as bad as it is right now, and predicted to almost get worse in the next year, that we maybe could have done more as a state before we take on what I think is a pretty big risk of nurses leaving instead of coming,” Snell said.

"We're supportive of the compact going forward, but at a decreased cost. I mean we have very high licensing fees. ... If we're going to increase that to $270 we're going to be one of the highest licensing like in the nation. So that's a concerning thing." — Meredith Roberts, American Nursing Association-Vermont

Meredith Roberts, president of American Nurses Association-Vermont, said that while there is support for the move, there’s also concern about the projected increase in the annual license fee.

Currently nurses that work here from out of state have to get a Vermont license, but if those nurses are part of the compact then they won’t need one.

The state expects to lose about $900,000, according to the Office of Professional Regulation, and Roberts said nurses will be asked to make it up by paying a higher annual fee.

“We’re supportive of the compact going forward, but at a decreased cost,” Roberts said. “I mean we have very high licensing fees. ... If we’re going to increase that to $270, we’re going to be one of the highest licensing, like, in the nation. So that’s a concerning thing.”

Roberts said that joining the compact could make it easier for nurses working in telehealth to provide services from out of state and that it could also help address Vermont’s shortage of college-level nursing teachers if instructors in the compact can teach online.

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