UPDATE: Beshear signs bill aimed at addressing nursing shortage

The law is designed to boost enrollment and lure out-of-state nurses into the state's workforce

Update from April 7, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday signed a bill aimed at addressing Kentucky’s nursing shortage by boosting enrollment in nursing schools and luring out-of-state nurses into the state’s workforce.

The measure comes a few months after the governor late last year declared the state’s nursing shortage to be an emergency.

Kentucky has faced a shortage of nurses for years but the problem worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to be training more nurses,” Beshear said during the bill-signing ceremony. “We need to make sure that unnecessary bureaucracy is not getting in the way, while at the same time we ensure the quality standards that are so important.”

The measure aims to lift enrollment limits in nursing programs meeting student achievement standards and accelerate licensing for out-of-state nurses to work in Kentucky.

The governor has pointed to projections that Kentucky will need thousands of additional nurses by 2024 to help fill gaps caused by retirements and people leaving the profession.

Republican Sen. Robby Mills was a lead sponsor of the bill. He said in a statement Thursday that the measure takes a “big step forward in ensuring that our commonwealth’s health care systems have the nurses to meet our citizens health needs now and in the future.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 10.


Update from March 10, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – It may soon be easier for qualified nurses from other states and countries to practice nursing in Kentucky. The House Health and Family Services Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 10 on Thursday.

“Senate Bill 10 improves the process for out of state and foreign trained nurses to practice in Kentucky without compromising our standard of care,” said Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, the bill’s primary sponsor.

According to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC), the measure would set up a process for the Kentucky Board of Nursing to issue a temporary work permit to nurses who are currently a licensed registered nurse in good standing in another state or territory where the applicant has worked.

Mills said he believes SB 10 “addresses statutory issues that could be holding back nurse availability in Kentucky.” Mills said the state could be short 10,000 to 16,000 practicing nurses in the coming years if things do not change.

Nurses from other countries who have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and have received a satisfactory credentials report from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools International Inc. may immediately receive a nursing license under SB 10.

The bill also lifts enrollment limits for nursing schools that have a three-year average NCLEX passage rate of 80% or higher, according to the LRC.

Another provision makes changes to the Kentucky Board of Nursing by limiting board members to three consecutive terms and requiring state Senate confirmation of appointments. The board would also be required to have more practicing nurses and have at least two members from each Congressional district.

“I believe these are very practical updates to Kentucky’s nursing oversight process,” Mills said. “And I believe we will see these changes produce positive results in the very near future and help fill this huge nursing gap that we all know that we have in the Commonwealth.”

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said she loves “almost everything” in SB 10, but has concerns about the Senate confirmation requirement.

“As a psychologist, I know none of the mental health licensing boards have this requirement and it worries me,” Willner said. “There are political appointments to these boards, but having another layer of politics involved in getting people on these boards really concerns me, a lot.”

Responding to Willner, Mills said the changes made to the Kentucky Board of Nursing in SB 10 are to ensure the voices of practicing nurses are elevated.

“That’s probably one of the reasons we decided to put the confirmation on there is to assure that the balance in the board remains working nurses-focused and (so) it doesn’t get top heavy again with nurse educators and things of that nature,” Mills said.

Committee Chair Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, thanked Mills for SB 10.

“I just want to personally thank you for, like you said, very practical legislation in addressing our immediate crisis with the healthcare worker and certainly nursing shortage,” Moser said.

SB 10 will now go before the full House for consideration. The Kentucky Senate unanimously approved the legislation on March 1.


Original story below from March 1, 2022:

FRANKFORT, KY (WTVQ) – Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills (R-Henderson), cleared the full Senate today. The bill sets in motion efforts to reinvigorate the nursing profession within the commonwealth. Kentucky has long suffered a shortage of workers in the nursing industry, a problem exacerbated by COVID-19.

“We can all be happy to see the latest wave of COVID-19 dramatically declining, but the awareness it has brought to our nursing shortage cannot be forgotten,” Mills said. “Enacting SB 10 will bring some relief to the nursing profession and is intended to prevent a crisis like this from happening again.”

The nursing shortage is a complex problem but is largely a result of an overwhelmed and overworked profession and bureaucratic red tape. For years, nursing programs have had arbitrary caps placed on their enrollment capacities and out-of-state or foreign-trained nurses experienced unnecessary difficulties practicing in Kentucky. This bill aims to fix these issues, as well as others. Unintended consequences of government policies have not helped the profession these past two years; elective procedures were suspended causing thousands of nurses to be furloughed. Vaccine mandates also deterred some nurses from returning to the job.

One of the main objectives of SB 10 is to restructure the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) in a more equitable fashion. Currently, the KBN consists of governor-appointed members, without any consideration of geographic location and practice status.  This bill requires there be two appointed members from each Congressional district, as well as proportionate representation of practicing nurses, all of which must be confirmed by the Senate. Also, board members could not serve more than three terms or 12 consecutive years.

In addition to restructuring the KBN, SB 10 removes the board’s ability to set arbitrary enrollment caps. The sentiment behind this change is that fully accredited nursing education programs should have the autonomy to set their own enrollment quotas, as long as their National Council of Licensure Exam pass rates are at least 80 percent over three years. This bill streamlines the process for out-of-state and foreign nurses to get licensed to practice in Kentucky. Competitive policies of other states have drawn nurses away from the commonwealth, and SB 10 aims to change that, keeping those professionals in our great state.

SB 10 is a thoughtful approach to addressing a difficult situation with our state’s nursing shortage. The changes made were focused on maintaining a high standard of care, but also considered the most efficient ways to bring more nursing professionals to the commonwealth. This bill is not a temporary fix and puts measures into law that will yield positive long-term results for Kentucky’s nursing profession.

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