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WA and ID legislatures address health care workforce shortages

Courtesy of Providence

Legislators in Olympia and Boise are considering several ways to increase the supply of health care workers.

In Olympia, a Senate committee yesterday [Thursday] approved a bill to allow Washington to join an interstate nursing group that includes 37 other states, including Idaho. Nurses in those states can work in any of the other states by completing some paperwork. But they don’t have to apply for licenses in the other member states.

Courtney Hobson, whose family recently moved from Texas to Spokane when her husband was transferred to Fairchild, says she wishes that was in place when she applied for a nursing license in Washington. She says that process has taken several months and been a bureaucratic hassle.

Hobson says joining the licensing compact would be a big deal for military families like hers. She says her family has moved seven times in 11 years.

“In a nurse licensure compact state, I am able to start applying for jobs before we even move to ensure a seamless job transition for myself and minimal loss of income," she said. “The nurse licensure compact removes those barriers for licensure for military spouses and allows for one less thing for us to tackle on our laundry list of to-dos during a chaotic and stressful time in our lives," she said.

Hobson spoke at a hearing last week. That bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

It's one of several bills that addresses the health care workforce shortage and the financial condition of Washington hospitals.

In Boise, a House committee voted to create a loan repayment program and fund for nurses with outstanding college loans. The bill’ssponsor is Rep. Dori Healey (R-Boise).

“Money allocated to fund would pay educational debts for nurses committed to practicing in designated rural shortage areas and critical access hospitals in Idaho," she said.

Participants could qualify for up to $25,000 over a three-year period. That bill was voted out of committee and goes to the full House.

The Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee also on Thursday approved a billthat allows health care facilities to apply for more providers through a federal visa program. That program allows students from other nations to study medicine and do medical internships at U.S. hospitals, especially in high-demand areas.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.