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New Nursing Licensure Compact Helps Fill Workforce Shortage

By Pia Hallenberg

*This story first appeared in the 2023 GSI Connect Magazine, which can found on our About Us page. Connect with us and learn how your company can get involved in our talent and advocacy efforts.

For the last six years, Greater Spokane Inc. has used its legislative advocacy to support passage of a Nurse Licensure Compact, which would allow nurses licensed in other states to immediately start working when they arrive in Washington rather than go through expensive and time-consuming recertification. 

“We are very pleased that this has finally come to fruition,” said Stacia Rasmussen, Life Sciences Spokane Business Development Manager for GSI. “We as a state had other compacts for tech and other licensees, but we did not have one for nursing.” 

Rasmussen said that nursing unions have historically been reluctant to support compacts because they would allow nurses from other states to fill jobs during a labor dispute. The other side of that coin is a national nursing shortage, which makes filling any nursing job difficult.

“This has been a sticking point for a long time,” said Jake Mayson, GSI’s Public Policy Director. “It has been a priority of Greater Spokane Incorporated for 20 years or more. We are so pleased we were finally able to help make this happen.”

Nursing is one of the top licensed jobs military spouses have when they move to Fairchild Air Force Base.

“Service members come in from all over the country, and they bring their spouses with them, and some of the spouses have nursing licenses from other states,” Rasmussen said. “In the past, they had to wait for the certification to go through. Now they can go right to work.” 

Captain Teri L. Bunce, USAF, Chief Public Affairs Officer of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild, said the compact greatly benefits Fairchild’s families. 

“We have worked on this for at least ten years, and Fairchild helped provide the context for why this is really needed,” Bunce said. She helped service members and their families testify via Zoom at the legislative hearings in Olympia that helped pass the compact. 

Mayson said the testimony had a huge impact.

“GSI can show up and say here this is a problem, but that does not have the impact that having families that are living the issue testify,” Mayson said. “Hearing from those who are practicing in the community, saving lives, was huge.”

Forward Fairchild is an established community partnership between GSI and Fairchild Air Force Base, which brings together community organizations with leadership at the base, making it easier to work on issues such as the nurse licensure compact.

“This is directly mission-related,” Bunce said. “In the military, we are forcefully relocated every three to five years. That means families have to pick up and leave their communities, move to new states and new territories.” 

If the service member’s spouse is a lawyer, teacher, or nurse, they may have to wait months to get licensed in the new state. 

“That leads to lost wages, and that second income is truly important to our families,” Bunce said. “I worked really closely with GSI’s Jake Mayson to help make this happen, and we appreciate the help from GSI.” 

The new nursing compact will also help active-duty nurses keep their competencies while stationed in Washington. 

“Without a valid license here, you couldn’t do your rotations,” Bunce said. 

She added that the family stability of service members is crucial to national security. 

“Service members have to be in shape to be called upon with a moment’s notice,” Bunce said. “They can’t be fully available on their mission if they are stressed about childcare or a spouse who can’t get a job. Physically they may be there, but mentally they are not available.” 

A couple of years ago, the biggest issue for Fairchild Air Force Base was the lack of affordable housing, Bunce said. Together with Mayor Nadine Woodward’s office, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and GSI, Bunce said Fairchild successfully lobbied for the Department of Defense to reassess the housing allowance given to service members here. 

“We were in such a tight spot that we got the evaluation to increase the amount of housing allowance mid-year; that is something that never happens,” Bunce said. “We feel very supported by GSI and the Spokane community.” 

Next on Bunce’s list of licensures is to make a compact work for teachers. 

“We are hoping that with GSI’s help, we can make that happen,” Bunce said. “We are grateful this finally worked out and there is still a lot left to do.” 

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