Protect Alaska's nursing standards and our health care
April 1, 2021
As a retired Alaskan, I depend on quality health care from knowledgeable professionals. The health care workers I see regularly are people I know and have come to trust with my care. Alaska has a stringent set of standards when it comes to nurse licensing and robust continuing education requirements. It makes sense; we have a diverse population, both ethnically and geographically, and our aging population is growing as more and more people decide to make Alaska their retirement destination. Alaska depends on these highly trained professionals to care for our diverse and aging population.
Governor Dunleavy recently filed Senate Bill 67, which would make Alaska a “nursing license compact state.” This would open the floodgates for what are called traveling nurses, allowing them to work in our facilities with whatever license they already have -- despite Alaska’s high standards for nurse licensure. This would also cause a revenue loss for our state since these nurses won’t have to pay fees for their Alaska license as our highly trained Alaskan nurses do.
Why do I care about fees? Nurse licensing fees in Alaska pay for investigations into care abuse. As that funding diminishes, so does the ability to investigate complaints of potential elder care abuse, for example. Additionally, the State of Alaska won’t be tracking these traveling nurses as they do with licensed Alaska nurses. The State won’t know who is working in Alaska since they only track nurses who have an Alaska license; traveling nurses would not be required to get one.
While the Governor is touting this bill as a way to fix our nursing shortage, the entire nation faces a huge shortage of all healthcare workers. What we need to do is work hard to recruit and retain our own nurses. Let’s encourage the growth of UAA’s Nursing program to train more Alaska nurses and DHSS’s SHARP program, which provides financial assistance to those looking to become healthcare providers. This is where we should focus our efforts and energy instead of lowering Alaska’s standards for nursing and relying on the mythical surplus of outside nurses to take care of us.
This is a scary scenario that I hope we can avoid by urging our legislators to say no to allowing Alaska to become a nursing license compact state. Take a moment today to submit a letter in opposition to SB 67 to maintain Alaska’s high standard of care.