WHA’s efforts to join the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) reached an important milestone when Sens. Howard Marklein, Rob Cowles and Luther Olsen, and Reps. Nancy VanderMeer, Travis Tranel and Keith Ripp circulated legislation September 5. The legislation maintains Wisconsin’s membership in the nurse licensure compact through the eNLC, now adopted by 26 other states. In a memo asking their colleagues to cosponsor the legislation, these six policymakers noted, “If Wisconsin does not adopt the new enhanced Compact before the end of 2017, Wisconsin’s nurses who currently enjoy the benefits of a compact license will be forced to apply for a single-state license in Wisconsin and all other states in which they want to practice, including those that have joined the eNLC.” 

Nearly all of the current compact states will move to the new compact January 19, 2019. As the sponsoring senators and representatives point out, “Inaction by the state Legislature will create unnecessary red tape and licensure barriers for nurses interested in serving patients in any of the 26 compact states.” WHA member action is needed for this bill that is supported by WHA, the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Executives, the Wisconsin Nurses Association, and 98 percent of individual nurses who responded to a Board of Nursing request for feedback and comment on the eNLC. On September 8, WHA and a coalition of health care organizations sent a memo to the Wisconsin State Assembly urging legislators to support our state’s adoption of the eNLC. The memo noted the importance of the compact to our Wisconsin-Iowa border, where compact licensure “is essential to places like Southwest Health in Platteville where nearly one in five nurses commute from Iowa.” The memo also noted the compact’s reach “extends beyond the Wisconsin-Iowa border; multi-state licensure facilitates nurses providing services through telemedicine, online education, agency nursing, and disaster relief.” The memo shares examples from the past two weeks where the value of multi-state licensure is clearly demonstrated:

“As a compact state, Texas is grateful to the many compact state nurses able to provide essential hurricane disaster relief with no additional action necessary by the Texas Board of Nursing. In the almost two weeks since Harvey hit, Texas had to issue over 600 emergency licenses to non-compact state nurses, an unnecessary regulatory burden during an unprecedented disaster which could have been avoided by compact membership. And over 100 Wisconsin hospitals reported deploying telemedicine in the recently completed WHA Information Center Annual Survey of Wisconsin Hospitals, creating access to Wisconsin’s #1 health care for patients in Wisconsin and other states.”

Ann Zenk, WHA vice president, workforce and clinical practice, encourages hospital advocates to contact their legislator, noting, “This is a perfect opportunity to engage with state lawmakers in support of legislation that helps ensure an adequately staffed health care workforce, and I encourage WHA members to contact their state legislators to ask them to cosponsor the bill enacting the eNLC in Wisconsin.” Over 650 HEAT members have already contacted their legislators in support of the eNLC. For additional information on the details of the eNLC, contact Zenk at 608-274-1820 or azenk@wha.org.

Individuals who want to stay up to date on this and other important legislation as well as take action on those issues should contact Jenny Boese, WHA vice president, federal affairs & advocacy, at jboese@wha.org or join WHA’s grassroots advocacy program, HEAT, at www.wha.org/heat-grassroots-advocacy.aspx.