Gov. David Ige on Thursday announced approval of emergency rules authorizing out-of-state nurses to temporarily practice in Hawaii without applying for and obtaining a license if certain requirements are met.
The new rules, enacted through the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, are effective immediately for a period of up to 120 days.
At the same time, hospitals are struggling with staff shortages, with anywhere from 900 to 1,000 front-line health care workers out on a given day due to COVID-19, according to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, which requested the emergency rules.
The situation was compounded by delays in the processing of required licenses for out-of-state health care workers from the DCCA, which itself has been short-staffed due to the impacts of the pandemic.
“We thank the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the Department of Health and Gov. Ige for understanding the urgent need for additional healthcare staff in Hawaii,” said HAH President and CEO Hilton Raethel in a news release. “We are very appreciative of the work done by the state to identify this solution. Our hospitals continue to be very full, and we continue to have significant numbers of staff out because of exposure to COVID-19, or with COVID-19 symptoms. This will allow us to bring in the staff we need to continue to ensure that our patients and community receive the care they need.”
Raethel said about 400 out-of-state workers are working in Hawaii now but that more are needed to help with shortages.
Each health care entity will be required to submit a credentialed list containing the names of each participating nurse, their home state, a residential and email address, the nurse’s active license number and a signed verification that the nurse meets certain established criteria set forth in the emergency rules.
After required confirmation, each nurse’s authorization to practice will remain valid for 90 days.
“The COVID-19 virus continues to cause a strain on the state’s healthcare system with hospitals throughout our communities reporting serious staffing challenges and conditions,” said Gov. David Ige in a news release. “This action addresses the immediate peril to public health and ensures that medical professionals may focus on providing critical care to patients.”