Systematic licensing issues delaying nurses from starting work in health care

Nursing homes facing financial problems, closures
Posted at 3:27 PM, Mar 22, 2022

Throughout the last two years, we've seen the demand for health care workers grow exponentially, but some aren't able to start working because of systematic licensing issues. There are nearly 3 million registered nurses in this country but many of them, like Christopher Battelli, did not get there easily.

“No one likes feeling like a number and it made me feel like such a number," Battelli said. “I counted it up and as of February 18th, which is when I last checked; I called them 77 times.”

He’s talking about the dozens and dozens of phone calls he had to make to get his license this month. He's been calling since November of last year, knowing he'd need his license for a future job.

“Every single week when I spoke to someone I would get completely different information," Battelli said. "So, I finally got a hold of someone and I said, 'I’m still waiting on my authorization to test. I’m coming down to this deadline here. Is there any chance I’m going to get my license in time?' And just to kind of put it in context, March 16th would have been 16 weeks from the day I sent in my application.”

After years of schooling and much debt, he got offered a job at Stanford.

“I’m on an oncology floor, which is kind of my area that I wanted to work in. It was kind of a dream job for me, so when Stanford said if you can’t get your license by the 15th, you can’t work, you forfeit this position, I became very upset," Battelli said.

He knows just how prominent the nursing shortage is nationwide, which made these delays that much more shocking to him. As Jack Needleman, with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health explains, this isn’t an issue unique to one state. Nurses in states like Ohio, Maryland, and Minnesota are just some examples of others experiencing delays up to six months to get their licenses.

“We need to improve the systems. We need to improve the staffing. We need to increase the ability for a licensed nurse to move from state to state," Needleman said. “Nursing has been in the last three decades a high burnout profession because of those emotional, physical, cognitive and managerial demands and when institutions that employ nurses, particularly hospitals are in short staff those demands go up, so the risk of burnout also increases. For that reason, these delays have important implications not only for the individuals involved they are substantial but also for the ability of hospitals and other health care institutions to deliver high-quality care.”

He says with nearly three million licensed nurses and about a million physicians in this country, licenses need to be filled in order to meet demand. Battelli is a microcosm of this issue but his experience gives us a lens into what many others like him are experiencing.

“These are people's livelihood. People are just sitting making no money while they have to wait for this process to happen," Battelli said. “And they might lose out because they cant handle this asinine backwards system. You’re just creating barriers, and when you create a barrier there are just going to be certain people that can’t get over it.”