NELSON: Say ‘Yes’ to joining the National Nurse Licensure Compact; ‘No’ to “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act”

Senator Carla Nelson
3 min readMay 8, 2023

On Friday, several news organizations reported on an email that Mayo Clinic officials sent to Democrat members of the Legislature and Governor Walz’s office sounding the alarm about two harmful pieces of legislation moving in the Minnesota legislature. One of those bills is the ‘Keeping Nurses at the Bedside’ Act, which Mayo warned would exacerbate staffing challenges.

Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) offered a better way: Allowing Minnesota to join the National Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), as have 38 other states. The Senate passed the bill in 2022, but it did not receive a hearing in the House. Senator Nelson introduced it again this year as Senate File 3281.

“We know that hospitals and healthcare facilities across the state are in a staffing crisis,” Sen. Nelson said. “The ‘Keeping Nurses at the Bedside’ Act is well-intentioned, but will not accomplish what we need. There is a better way: The Nurse Licensure Compact will increase access to care, support telehealth, and help Minnesota be better prepared to meet health crises such as the pandemic. It will also increase our service for military individuals, spouses, and families. It will enable us to serve patients and families beyond our state boundaries. Joining the Nurse Licensure Compact is supported by nurses — it will keep them competitive with their peers and keep our state as a healthcare leader.”

Sen. Nelson added, “The NLC compact has been a successful nurse licensure model for over twenty years. Minnesota should join the 38 other states that have allowed nurses to participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact just as we allowed physicians to join the Physician Licensure Compact several years ago. It is past time that we allow Minnesota nurses to obtain a single license to work in multiple states, and allow nurses from other NLC states to work in Minnesota to fill shortages.”

The NLC licenses reflect the same high standards and safety of current state licensure but provide a modern system that supports nurses and patients in giving and receiving the best care possible.

A coalition of 60 organizations representing nurses, providers, telehealth supporters, and military family advocates supports Minnesota’s joining the NLC. Minnesota nurses overwhelmingly support joining the compact. A 2022 survey by the Minnesota Board of Nursing shows nurses favor Minnesota’s joining the compact by a ratio of nearly 10 to 1.

The NLC has been operational and successful for more than 20 years and continues to grow each year with the addition of new states. The NLC’s licensing requirements are the same as Minnesota’s, and applicants are required to pass a federal criminal background check, so patients in every compact state — including Minnesota — can be assured the same high quality of care.

Benefits of the NLC:

  • Access to Care: Expands access to nursing services across the country quickly and efficiently, which is essential for the health of many rural and underserved communities.
  • Telehealth: Enables nurses to practice in person or provide telehealth nursing services to patients located across the country without having to obtain additional licenses.
  • Disaster Relief: Allows nurses to immediately cross state borders and provide vital services in the event of a natural disaster or other emergencies, without the need to wait for a declaration of emergency.
  • Military Families: Allows military spouse nurses to seamlessly continue working without having to obtain a new license each time they relocate.
  • Online Education: Facilitates online nursing education by reducing educators’ need for multiple licenses.
  • Cost-Effective: For Nurses: Nurses do not have to obtain additional nursing licenses, making practicing across state borders affordable and convenient; For Employers: The NLC also removes a burdensome expense for organizations that employ nurses and may share the expenditure of multiple licenses.
  • Greater Efficiency: Eliminates redundancy, duplicative regulatory processes, and unnecessary fees.
  • Flexible Licensure: Allows nurses to obtain a single state license based on their state’s requirements and statutes should they choose.

How does the NLC keep patients safe?

  • All nurses practicing under a multistate license must meet a minimum set of licensure requirements and a fingerprint federal criminal background check. These requirements are based on the highest regulatory standards for licensed healthcare professionals. Nurses who fail to meet these requirements will not be eligible for a multistate license.