LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Opposition to Nevada participation in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is dropping away, signaling a better chance that the state could opt in and remove barriers that have been a problem during the pandemic and the recent surge of RSV cases.

A statement Saturday from Nevada Nurses Association (NNA) Executive Director Starla Gallagher expressed support for the compact after changes were made to require background checks.

“The original Nurse Licensure Compact historically was not encouraged due to a lack of background checks, creating what was considered a concern for the safety of Nevada patients,” Gallagher said. “The new ‘enhanced’ NLC includes background checks for all nurses with multi-state licenses mitigating this previous concern.”

On Wednesday, the Nevada Hospital Association called for Nevada to join the compact to make it easier to recruit nurses and remove barriers to getting out-of-state nursing resources during periods of high demand. The NNA statement appeared to reverse what has been a long record of opposing the compact.

With NNA support, proposed legislative changes to existing law — NRS 632 — to allow participating in the compact.

Nurses who work in Nevada are currently required to obtain a license here — a step that takes time and is unnecessary in other states that are part of the compact. That created problems in getting help in November as RSV cases and other respiratory illnesses overwhelmed pediatric units at hospitals around the state.

Recent reports from NHA indicate that children are still being held in emergency rooms because pediatric beds haven’t been available. In some cases, adult beds were used to treat children.

“The national and worldwide nursing shortage is becoming more and more evident every day, as hospitals and clinics struggle to staff their offices and facilities,” Gallagher’s statement said. “By accepting the eNLC language into legislation it will give Nevada a better opportunity to make rapid and fluid changes during times of medical emergency and illness surges. In addition, it allows Nevada Nurses to assist other eNLC states when they experience similar situations and need immediate help with staffing.”

Cathy Dinauer of the Nevada Board of Nursing said Thursday that a 2022 survey showed that nurses widely supported joining the compact. That support has been growing according to surveys over the past few years.

Information provided by Dinauer showed an overwhelming 93% of nurses who were surveyed in 2022 supported joining the NLC. That compares to 90% in 2019 and 83% in 2014.

Gallagher’s statement added: “NNA is hosting Nurses Day at the Legislature on February 23rd, 2023 and asking all nurses to participate either in person or virtually. Our goal is to show our legislators that this is backed by the Nevada Nurses Association and standing strong with the Nevada Hospital Association strengthens that “voice” and hopefully will amount to the changes we are all hoping and pushing for. Ultimately, this will be a positive impact for the nursing community creating a more inclusive and wholesome working atmosphere which will help encourage nurses to stay in Nevada, and ultimately help in providing better quality care for Nevada residents.”