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Maryland Turns To Nursing Students & Out-Of-State Nurses To Shore Up Hospital Workforce

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- With Maryland's hospitals grappling with staffing shortages, Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced the state is taking action to shore up the medical workforce.

As part of the effort, Maryland is removing roadblocks that kept nurses who are licensed in other states from providing nursing care here. Besides that, the state is asking nursing programs to let select nursing students graduate as soon as possible.

"This week, Maryland reported the nation's lowest COVID-19 rate, and we continue to withstand the Delta variant surge better than just about any other state," Gov. Hogan said. "While our hospitalizations remain well below all of our pandemic surge capacity triggers, we are taking proactive steps to maximize the ability of our hospitals to increase their nursing workforce."

Moving forward, the Maryland Department of Health will allow registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who hold active licenses in other jurisdictions to practice in Maryland, a measure backed by the state's Board of Nursing.

In addition, the Maryland Higher Education Commission is encouraging nursing programs statewide to let qualified nursing students "exit early" and enter the workforce. This can be done either by letting students take exams sooner, streamlining the final weeks of the semester or advancing high-performing students.

"We want to be clear about what exactly early exit is and is not," MHEC Secretary James Fielder wrote in a letter Thursday to nursing schools' deans and faculty. "Early exit is not a change in the curriculum. All learning outcomes, course objectives, and program outcomes must be preserved."

Dennis Shrader, secretary for the state Department of Health, is also encouraging hospital leadership and schools to collaborate on ways to maximize the use of nursing students and waiving the license requirement for students enrolled in physician assistant students to practice.

The goal of these steps, Hogan said, is to give hospitals more flexibility to deal with staffing needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have worked closely with our hospitals, healthcare associations, and many others in the state on this solution that will further our ability to continue to provide quality care to Marylanders," Shrader said. "Nurses and student nurses have been invaluable in our fight against COVID-19 and so much more and these steps will ensure that hospitals can use all available nursing solutions."

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