Governor Hickenlooper signed a bill last month, making Colorado a part of a nurse compact.
It was meant to address our growing need for nurses in rural areas, instead, it pushed the nurse license application back a few months for December graduates.
We first told you about this last week - and now this week the department that issues the licenses (DORA) came up with a temporary one.
Here's the statement we got from DORA:
For those applicants who are qualified for licensure except for the required fingerprint background check, the Board and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing have approved the issuance of a 180-day temporary permit, pending an attestation that the applicant has fully disclosed his or her criminal history on the application.
This gap measure will authorize the permit holder to practice nursing, in a setting in which a Colorado licensed professional nurse is supervising, while awaiting the implementation of the Colorado Bureau of Investigations’ fingerprint background check process and the review of the completed background check.
The Board believes this process will provide an opportunity for the qualified applicant to work during this transitory phase while still ensuring both compliance with the compact and public protection.
Pending applicants, employers and nursing schools have been contacted and provided with the required attestation form. The applications will be processed upon receipt of the attestation from the applicants.
Additional information on implementation can be found here.
The Wait Is Impacting Veteran Graduates
Seth Kindred's daily motivation to be a nurse is a box. It's full of almost five years worth of Army pictures. He already applied to the Colorado VA Hospital and said their talks have been favorable. They're just trying to figure out the license situation.
He said he's thinking about applying for the temporary license the state is issuing, but because the VA is a federal agency he's not sure if they'll even take it.
"It's something that I can't be mad at them about," said Seth, "if they pass up on me because it's a bad situation."
When he passed the nursing test in December, he was told he'd get his license within 2 - 4 weeks. When the deadline came closer, he got an email saying it was going to take 4 - 6 months. The mixed messages are partly what has him frustrated.
The bill signed by the governor requires new graduates to pass an FBI background check to get their license, but the FBI has yet to start that process.
"That's where the state got stuck," said Ingrid Johnson. She's with the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence and who DORA said we could talk to on their behalf.
"Anytime you have something new it's always a challenge and you feel like someone always falls into that donut hole," she said.
Ingrid told 9NEWS she's making herself available for any nurses who have questions about the process. She sympathizes with the frustration and says this new bill will be good in the long-haul.
Seth said he hasn't failed the state and hopes the state doesn't fail him or any of the other nurses who just want to do the right thing.
"We're all in this together," he said.
Hospitals Accepting Temporary Licenses
9NEWS asked hospitals around Colorado if they'll accept the temporary licenses for new hires. Here are their statements:
The answer is yes and it applies to all SCL Health hospitals:
Lutheran Medical Center
Good Samaritan Medical Center
Saint Joseph Hospital
Platte Valley Medical Center
Yes, Centura Health will accept the temporary nursing licenses DORA is issuing and will follow our standard hiring process for nurse applicants, which includes a nursing assessment and post-offer/background/pre-employment health screen. Thanks and let me know if you have any further questions.
Colorado VA Hospital
VA is reviewing its current policy to determine if the Colorado temporary permit will meet VA licensing criteria.
We have no concerns hiring these nurses as they have met all previously required stipulations for licensure. We are grateful that DORA has implemented this measure to help us continue to meet the needs of our nursing workforce.
DORA responded to a long list of questions regarding this piece just after 9 p.m. on Wednesday. They also asked us to direct viewers to their Board of Nursing homepage and a Q and A section about the gap measure previously discussed.
The answers from Lee Rasizer, PIO for DORA, are as follows (questions from 9NEWS in BOLD):
How many December graduates are affected?
The State Board of Nursing has instituted a 180-day temporary permit as a gap measure to ensure applicants are processed quickly and efficiently and that these applicants will be authorized to practice nursing in Colorado. We are unable to quantify the number of December nursing graduates are affected by the new law, as we do not categorize applicants in that manner. We can state that about 3.5% of the nursing population in Colorado is affected by the requirements of the new law.
Can CO NCLEX results be transferred to another state?
Yes, a form must be submitted with the Board of Nursing in order for the transfer process to begin. Please contact email@example.com for specific questions related to this issue.
How much do the hospitals know? Also, how confident is Dora that the fingerprinting process will be complete and reasonably done within our temporary license window? Will they extend if necessary?
Information on the temporary permit was issued on Feb. 7 to hospitals, the Colorado Hospital Association, physician employers, nursing home administrators, and others alerting them to the changes. Additionally, multiple employer stakeholders were invited to attend a webinar today (Feb. 7, 2018) to have any outstanding questions addressed.
We anticipate the fingerprint background checks will be implemented within the 180-day window. The Board of Nursing has the authority to extend the temporary permit if the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has not implemented the fingerprint background check process inside that 180-day time frame.
How are they addressing applicants who are wanting to move out of state for work? Currently, Colorado's temporary license is only valid here. No other state will issue license by endorsement. They also will not allow us to transfer our NCLEX results to another state (Colorado is willing to, but other states will not accept them) for license by examination. Are they making any exceptions about issuing licenses? Are they willing to issue a single state license to individuals who need it to move and qualify for an eCompact license somewhere else?
The State Board of Nursing must process applications in accordance with compact requirements, which requires fingerprint background checks prior to licensure. NCLEX exam scores may be transferred to another state. A form must be submitted with the Board of Nursing in order for the transfer process to begin. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for specific questions related to this issue.
I'd like to know when the actual request to have our fingerprints was submitted to the FBI so that we can have a better idea of when the 120-day wait started. I've heard it started several weeks before we were informed and I also heard that it started the day we were informed.
The request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation was submitted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation no earlier than Jan. 18, when SB 18-027 was enacted.
Why did they send out restricted temporary permits instead of processing them as single state unrestricted licenses until multi-state licenses could be granted? Or why that was not an appropriate fix until this could be implemented effectively?
The State Board of Nursing and National Council of State Boards worked to provide a gap solution that ensured both compliance with the compact and public protection.
What process do they have in place to inform hospitals that we can work as unrestricted RNs? And is there a better way for our upper management to reach them?
Information on the temporary permit was issued on Feb. 7 to hospitals, physician employers, nursing home administrators, and others alerting them to the changes. Additionally, these entities were invited to attend a webinar today (Feb. 7, 2018) to have any outstanding questions addressed.