Even before the pandemic, demand for traveling healthcare workers was surging due to staffing shortages and burgeoning metropolitan markets. The need has only grown during the past year.

Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that an additional 2.9 to 3.4 million registered nurses would be required between 2016 and 2026.

Nurses are the most common category of such traveling workers, but plenty of other roles—from therapists and pharmacists to speech pathologists and surgeons—come into play. Transcending position, the minimum requirements for these employees include a valid professional license, up-to-date vaccinations, at least one year of clinical practice, and references.

As for nurses specifically, they must first receive an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school. When it comes to licensing, candidates need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination. An important note: states have different requirements and bureaucracies, with some jurisdictions taking days or months to process license applications and some requiring in-person appearances.

Although candidates must obtain a license to practice in each new state, most states now have reciprocal agreements, which eases the path to licensure in other jurisdictions. More recently, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards, many states have amended or suspended licensure laws in response to COVID-19 and/or liberalized rules governing telemedicine, making it easier for doctors and nurses alike to practice across borders.

Some locales may also require a notarized copy of the candidate’s license and/or birth certificate, a college transcript, a photo ID, or even a fingerprint check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A helpful resource for employers in this regard is the website of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

And one final note: state-mandated continuing education is another factor to be considered. Course work verifications can generally be used across states, but some states maintain unique course requirements.

In sum, demographic shifts during the past few years have combined with the severity of the pandemic to create a new reality for the healthcare workforce—one in which occupational license portability might become the new normal. Employers are advised to work closely with their legal counsel and screening providers to stay abreast of these developments.


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