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‘Keep the system robust:’ What Gov. Little’s emergency order means for doctors, nurses – and your care

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Posted at 1:20 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 16:28:40-04

This article was originally published by Don Day on BoiseDev.com

Friday, Gov. Brad Little’s executive order for the State of Idaho allowed the state to make temporary changes to provisions around the state’s healthcare system.

“State licensing agencies and departments are authorized to temporarily exercise enforcement discretion, implement temporary rules, and waive licensing and related requirements to maximize access to health care services and provider support in response to COVID-19,” the order read.

We talked to Little’s senior policy advisor Sarah Stover and received comment from the Idaho Board of Nursing and Idaho Board of Medicine to break down how this might work. The order could bring some nurses who just left the professions and whose license recently lapsed come back to work.

“We wanted to enable any health care provider to have the greatest flexibility to be part of the workforce, but not compromise care,” Stover said.

Changes to nursing rules

For instance, if a nurse recently retired with a license in good standing, the state could waive fees or other requirements to get them back to work quickly.

“The Idaho Board of Nursing is prepared to license and certify individuals with nursing education and experience be available to help provide healthcare services if facilities need extra help,” Idaho Board of Nursing Executive Director Russ Barron said.

Idaho is a so-called “compact state,” which means states in the group can share nurses. More than half the US states are in the compact. This means nurses from other states can help in person or via telehealth, according to Barron

Other measures:

  • Provide temporary licenses to nurses from non-compact states and waive fees
  • Provide temporary licenses to previously licensed Idaho nurses who have retired or have not been practicing
  • Work with nursing programs to provide “free temporary apprenticeship certificates” to students recommended by the schools.
  • Remind nursing instructors that they can also help

“Retirees and apprentices would receive temporary licenses and certifications which mean they may be delegated any activity for which they are trained and competent, Barron said. “As you can imagine, there will be a variety of roles needed from basic assistance to higher-level roles performed by License Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses. “

Doctors & other medical professionals

The Idaho State Board of Medicine licenses and regulates doctors, physician assistants, and respiratory therapists and other health professionals. The declaration also gives them some added flexibility.

“This proclamation allows the board to remove certain regulatory barriers and provide the health care providers more flexibility in coordinating care for patients while continuing to protect the health and safety of the public,” Idaho State Board of Medicine Executive Director Anne Lawler wrote.

Board of Medicine measures:

  • Speed up temporary licensing of medical providers who previously had Idaho licenses but retired or let their licenses go inactive.
  • Provide temporary licenses to medical providers who have licenses in good standing other states, so that they can help with in-person or telehealth care.
  • Cutting down on paperwork and processes to shift supervising physicians and their assigned physicians’ assistants.

“For example… if we have a doctor that’s out sick, can we redistribute the physician’s assistants for a short period of time,” Stover said. “We don’t want to be in a place where we can’t use PAs, because we know how important that is.”

The bottom line, Stover said, is to keep as many folks working in the state’s healthcare system as possible.

“What can we do to keep the workforce we have as robust as possible?”