Oklahoma’s legislature has given nurses more flexibility in where they practice.

story and photo by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
A July signature from North Carolina’s governor has given Oklahoma nurses what they’ve been wanting for years.
The signing of legislation by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on July 20, 2017, triggered the landmark enactment of the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), ushering in a new era of nurse licensure in the U.S.
Allowing nurses to have mobility across state borders, the eNLC increases access to care while maintaining public protection.
The eNLC, which is an updated version of the original NLC, allows for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs) to have one multistate license, with the ability to practice in person or via telehealth in both their home state and other eNLC states.
Oklahoma Nurses Association Executive Director Jane Nelson said the compact will give nurses more opportunities.
“ONA supported it because we know nurses live in Oklahoma and work in other places, and they live on the borders and they work in Oklahoma,” Nelson said. “I think it has a lot of advantages.”
The compact could not be ratified until the final state signed off, which was North Carolina.
Last week, the new Interstate Commission of Nurse Licensure Compact Administrators set Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, as the implementation date for the eNLC.
The implementation date is when nurses with eNLC multistate licenses may begin practicing in eNLC states.
In original NLC states that have enacted eNLC legislation, a nurse who holds a multistate license will be grandfathered into the eNLC and will be able to practice in other eNLC states beginning on the implementation date.
A nurse residing in a state that is new to the eNLC will be able to practice in other eNLC states contingent upon the board of nursing issuing the nurse a multistate license.
The original NLC will remain in effect with Colorado, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Wisconsin as members until each enacts eNLC legislation.
As of the implementation date, the multistate license held by nurses residing in these four states will only be valid in those states. They will not have the authority to practice in the 26 eNLC states without applying for a single-state license in those states, unless the original NLC states join the eNLC by the implementation date.
Likewise, as of the implementation date, nurses with an eNLC multistate license residing in eNLC states will not have the authority to practice in the four states that are still in the original NLC without applying for a single-state license in those states, unless the states join the eNLC by that date.
Current eNLC states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin made Oklahoma the seventh state to join the new compact in April 2016 when she signed House Bill 2482.
Susan Jones, PhD, APRN-CNS, Oklahoma Board of Nursing president lauded the move.
“Participation in multistate licensure is something that Oklahoma nurses have been asking about for quite some time, and with the language in the enhanced compact they will have the opportunity,” Jones said. “It is exciting to have been able to work with the Oklahoma Board of Nursing staff and leadership and our state legislature to ensure that the safety needs of patients and the practice flexibility of nurses will be soon be available in Oklahoma.”
District 48 Rep. Pat Ownbey supported getting Oklahoma onboard.
“This legislation is a giant step forward for Oklahoma’s health care system,” Ownbey said. “The new law will allow nurses practicing in and out of our state the flexibility in moving to where the greatest health needs exist while keeping patient safety intact. I’m certainly proud to be a part of this effort.”
Boards of nursing (BONs) were the first health care provider regulatory bodies to develop a model for interstate practice with the original adoption of the NLC in 1997 and its implementation in 2000.
While other health care provider regulatory bodies are just getting started in this process, the NLC has been operational and successful for more than 16 years.
Nelson said several Oklahoma hospitals pushed for the new compact in order to make it easier to attract specialty nurses.
“I don’t think Oklahoma is worried about a brain drain,” Nelson said. “I think Oklahoma sees it as an advantage to be able to bring nurses in from other states to meet the needs of the citizens of this state. There’s a philosophy that there’s a practice wherever the nurse is and there’s a practice wherever the patient is.”
And that movement just got a lot easier for Oklahoma nurses.

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