From professional burnout to illnesses, staffing shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to pose a challenge for the health care industry. With coronavirus cases on the rise, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Sterley Stanley and Raj Mukherji to bolster the state’s workforce by extending the existing emergency licensure of certain health care workers was signed into law Wednesday.
Early in the pandemic, the Division of Consumer Affairs issued waivers to permit certain health care workers licensed in other states to temporarily practice in New Jersey. Shortly after, additional waivers were issued authorizing certain graduates of accredited health care programs who had not yet met the requirements for full licensure to temporarily treat New Jersey residents during the public health emergency.
Health care workers who have been able to practice under emergency temporary authorization include nurses, respiratory care therapists, alcohol and drug counselors, and pharmacists – among others. The waivers had an expiration date of January 11, 2022.
Recognizing the ongoing need for their assistance during the pandemic, the law (formerly bill A-6155/S-4139) allows health care workers who already received this waiver to continue practicing until June 30, 2022. Out-of-state health care professionals and recent health care graduates who fit the existing criteria but have not yet applied for this waiver will be permitted to apply for an emergency temporary license as well.
Upon the bill becoming law, Assemblymen Conaway (D-Burlington), Stanley (D-Middlesex) and Mukherji (D-Hudson) issued the following joint statement:
“Recent graduates of health care programs and health care professionals from other states have played a critical role in our efforts to treat New Jersey residents throughout this pandemic. With COVID-19 cases rapidly rising once again, we will continue to need their assistance in dealing with this latest wave of infections.
“Our state must do everything we can to ensure adequate staffing in our hospitals and other health care facilities. Extending these waivers and permitting new applicants will help bolster our health care workforce and provide patients with the care they need during the ongoing public health emergency.
“We will make it through this difficult time together, with the help of the health care workers who continue to rise to the challenge every day.”
The act takes effect immediately.