Today, Illinois residents cannot access health care as well as people living in 34 other states, but there is a simple way to fix this. Illinois must join the Nurse Licensure Compact now. SB 2068 must be passed.

The Covid Pandemic has demonstrated the effectiveness of telemedicine. We need to ensure that Illinois residents have continued access to, and Illinois nurses can provide vital telehealth services. However, since Illinois is not part of the National Nurse Licensure Compact, those services, and thousands of high paying nursing jobs, are at risk of leaving the state.

I am an Illinois nurse who has worked in Chicago for the past 10 years as a telehealth nurse case manager. I work for a global insurance company in travel assistance. My job is to support ill and injured travelers who require nursing assessment and medical care while away from their home country. I provide care and referrals over the phone and get them the help they need from my office here in Illinois. But my job is threatened, as well as the jobs of hundreds of other nurses, because Illinois has failed to pass the Nurse Licensure Compact.

I currently hold eight different nursing licenses so that I can practice nursing in the states where our clients are located. While all my licenses require the same standard of nursing education, continuing education, and background checks, the timing of renewals and processes I must adhere are different for each state. I spend many hours per year maintaining my licenses. Additionally, my employer has spent many thousands of dollars to cover fees and my hours of work required to obtain my multiple licenses. It would be much easier for my employer to simply move my jobs, and those of my colleagues, to a compact state like Florida where we already have an office in Miami, or for me to relocate to Indiana (a compact state) so I can commute to my job in Chicago. I don’t want to move; my life, family and home are here in Illinois.

Currently, nurses are only allowed to practice nursing in the states in which they are licensed, and the state of practice is determined by the location of the patient. For example, when an Illinois nurse calls a patient in Florida, the nurse must be licensed in Florida. And, although I hold a license in Florida, which is a compact state, I cannot be granted a compact license, because compact licenses are reserved only for state residents.

The simple solution has already been adopted in 34 states – including every state that shares a border with Illinois. The Illinois legislature must pass the Nurse Licensure Compact. Find more information at cmsa-chicago.org/nlcyes

The Nurse Licensure Compact is similar to the driver’s license compact in which every state recognizes the validity of all other states’ driver’s licenses. If I wish to drive across the U.S., my Illinois driver’s license is all I need. The failure to pass the Nurse Licensure Compact is harming Illinois residents. Health care disparities, which have existed for decades, have been laid bare by the COVID pandemic. One reason for the disparities is unequal access to high quality health care. The last year has proven that telehealth can fill some of that gap. The need to socially distance and limit contact has pushed more and more care into the telehealth realm, with positive results. Many people who cannot get out of their homes have been provided easy and inexpensive access to high quality healthcare via telehealth. Patients save time and trouble compared to in-person appointments.

Telehealth does not operate without nurses. This kind of health care delivery will continue to grow and Illinois must be part of it. Since Illinois is not part of the national compact, the nurses providing telehealth from Illinois have to struggle through the multiple licensing nightmare. Nurses in other states cannot provide care to Illinois residents unless they obtain an Illinois license. Most harmful to Illinois is that many companies are now deciding to locate or relocate in a compact state and limit service to the other compact states – currently 34 are in the compact and that number is expected to grow to more than 40 this year. Illinois residents are going to miss out on that care, and Illinois nurses are going to miss out on or lose great jobs.

The solution is simple and ready to be enacted by the Illinois legislature. Then we can focus on growing our state’s telehealth care with a vast array of high-quality care alternatives to improve the health of Illinoisans, provide access to underserved communities, and protect and create many excellent jobs for Illinois nurses. Or, we can sit back and refuse to move into 21st Century health care while maintaining our uneven service and thousands of Illinois nurses lose their jobs or move to other states. Illinois must pass the Nurse Licensure Compact now.

Eric Bergman is the Past President of CMSA Chicago, the Chicago chapter of the Case Management Society of America. CMSA is the leading professional organization for case managers in the U.S. CMSA Chicago is the leader of a coalition of more than 30 nursing and healthcare organizations across Illinois in support of the nurse licensure compact.

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