Pennsylvania Addresses Nursing Shortage, Allows Additional Licensed Nurses to Practice

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt announced Pennsylvania is taking the first step to implement the Nurse Licensure Compact by allowing nurses with multistate licenses issued by 40 other states and territories to practice in Pennsylvania. This key step will help address Pennsylvania’s severe nursing shortage and increase health care access for patients across the Commonwealth.

Starting Sept. 5, registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) who hold a multistate license through the interstate Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) will be permitted to practice in the Commonwealth. Administered by the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NLC is an agreement among 41 states and territories to recognize nurses licensed by compact members. Act 68 of 2021 authorized Pennsylvania to join the NLC, which increases patients’ access to in-person and telehealth care.

“Pennsylvania is committed to ensuring that Pennsylvanians can receive top-notch care from licensed, qualified health care professionals,” Schmidt said. “By implementing this first phase of Pennsylvania’s engagement in the NLC, we are expanding opportunities for patients and providing hospitals and health systems with access to an approved, vetted group of licensed RNs and LPNs.”

November 2022 industry survey by The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) showed vacancy rates of 30% for RNs providing direct care, which is a 10 percentage point increase since 2019. A separate HAP report from January 2023 showed that Pennsylvania could have a shortfall of more than 20,000 RNs by 2026.

Allowing qualified RNs and LPNs to practice in the commonwealth expands the pool of recruits for hospitals and other health care facilities and helps alleviate burdens on overworked nursing staffs, making conditions safer for both patients and health care workers.

“This is a critical first step in the full implementation of the Nurse Licensure Compact. The Department of State continues to work diligently with its state and federal partners to satisfy the preconditions necessary to fully implement the NLC,” Schmidt said. “Once that occurs, Pennsylvania’s State Board of Nursing will be able to issue NLC multistate licenses to Pennsylvania nurses, allowing them to practice in compact member states and territories.”

Among the preconditions for fully implementing the NLC is being able to certify to other compact states that Pennsylvania’s State Board of Nursing has performed an FBI criminal background check on Pennsylvania applicants, a process that requires FBI authorization. The Department of State has sought this authorization and is awaiting a response.

“We are also ensuring that other technical and regulatory requirements are able to be met so that the commonwealth can fully implement the NLC as quickly as possible once we receive FBI approval,” Schmidt added.

“This announcement is an important step to bringing more nurses to the bedside to care for Pennsylvanians. HAP thanks the Shapiro Administration for its action on this initiative and its ongoing efforts to finalize Pennsylvania’s implementation of this compact,” said Nicole Stallings, president and CEO of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP).

“It’s critically important that we do everything we can to alleviate the hospital staffing crisis that is driving RNs from the bedside and imperiling patient care in every corner of our state,” said Maureen May, R.N., president of PASNAP, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals. “By drawing more nurses to PA, the Nurse Licensure Compact will help ensure that, at this very critical time, our hospitals are amply staffed and that our nurses are able to give the care they want and have been trained to give.”