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The eNLC Compact Is a Game-Changer For Nurses and Staffing Firms

Trying to get a handle on today’s travel nurses? The eNLC lets them move from state to state more easily. It also introduces some ramifications that staffing firms would do well to be aware of.

The eNLC Compact Is a Game-Changer For Nurses and Staffing Firms

By: Reva Nelson

You’ve got your hands full when it comes to recruiting nurses. The shortage is real. But a new law may reduce the pressure on your staffing firm —especially when it comes to nurses who move from state to state. 

The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), which went live in January 2018, enables nurses to provide care to patients in 31 “compact” states. To date 29 states have implemented the compact. (Kansas and Louisiana are still in process.) By eliminating the requirement to obtain additional licenses, nurses are able to more easily move from state to state.  

This sounds (and mostly is) ideal for nurses and beneficial for your travel nurse staffing firm, with fewer obstacles to placement. But as with most new initiatives, there are new challenges. 

It’s important that your healthcare staffing firm understand what the eNLC does—and doesn’t—do. After all, your company’s success (and reputation) hinges on meeting your clients’ needs for top-notch travel nurses.  

Monster spoke with industry experts to learn more about what the eNLC means for staffing firms like yours.

How the eNLC can benefit your staffing firm
The eNLC offers plenty of upsides for staffing firms: added placement flexibility, reduced red tape and shorter lead times in compact states. “A bigger pool of licensed candidates for jobs makes placement easier, easing shortage pressures,” explains Jim Puente, director, Nurse Licensure Compact at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).  

By removing the need to obtain licensure in compact states, nurses can be placed without being delayed by the license application process. “If you have an urgent need to fill, you don’t have weeks to wait for licenses to come through,” explains Puente. “In the past, in some cases, this would take up to 6 months.”

The new law is also good news for nurses, since it means they no longer have to hold multiple licenses. And that in turn may benefit you, since staffing firms sometimes pay for and facilitate these licenses. 

Now a caveat: Nurses in those 19 non-compact states—which include biggies like California, Oregon, Nevada, Indiana, Minnesota, New York—must still have a license in each state in which they plan to practice. 

Here’s a complete map of compact vs. non-compact states. Puente recommends using the NCSBN’s new Authorization to Practice map to confirm where your travel nurses are currently licensed. Visit nursys.com and enter the nurse’s name, license number or state nursing board ID number.

An added need to vet candidates
No staffing firm ever wants to wants to vet a nurse who later ends up in the headlines for gross misconduct. That makes understanding the context of this new legislation all the more important. 

The eNLC requires fingerprint-based federal criminal background checks, though its predecessor legislation, the Nurse Licensing Compact (NLC), did not. Other states within the original compact did not require them, such as Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine and others. 

Nurses who were already in the compact before the “enhanced” legislation went into effect were grandfathered in. Technically, that means they can obtain a multi-state license without the background check, assuming their original license didn’t require it. 

These nurses will later be required to obtain fingerprint-based federal criminal background checks when they renew their multi-state eNLC licenses. Yet in some cases, that requirement may be one to two years away, explains Jackie Russell, JD, RN, nursing practice and regulatory affairs specialist for the Minnesota Nurses Association

Discipline and enforcement also remain somewhat untested under the enhanced compact, says Russell. Although the eNLC contains provisions to improve discipline-related communications and enforcement—such as for drug diversion—be aware if a compact state is slow to act or communicate. In such a scenario, a nurse could easily move on to another state and practice there while the investigation is ongoing. 

Will the eNLC make staffing firms obsolete?
The enhanced compact means fewer hoops for nurses to jump through and more uniform license standards. Here’s the big question: Those improvements may make it a bit easier for nurses to get hired directly by healthcare providers and to cut out the middle man—that is, your staffing firm. 

“Tech-savvy nurses feel more empowered and would be happy to bypass agencies,” says Tim Teague, president of Blue Sky Medical Staffing Software

Better face this one head on, says Teague. “Start planning now to not be the sole agent for nurses, but their conduit to deal directly with hospitals .”

What lies ahead with the compact? Based on its success, it’s likely that more states will join in the coming years. It’s also likely that the eNLC will evolve over time. One thing is certain: getting the attention of travel nurses will require a multi-solution recruiting strategy, one with a robust employer brand at its center. That message will help differentiate your staffing firm's unique value to today's mobile nurses.