SOUTHERN INDIANA – State representative Ed Clere believes Indiana House Bill 1344 will cure the headaches being felt by local nurses, patients and healthcare organizations alike.

The bipartisan bill — authored by District 72 Rep. Clere, R-New Albany, and co-authored by Rep. Steven Davisson, R-Salem, and Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis — seeks to enter Indiana into the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact [NLC].

Under the NLC, nurses can practice in other member states without having to obtain additional licenses. 

Currently, there are 31 states already in the compact – including Kentucky. In addition to Indiana, the other states with pending NLC legislation are Michigan, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington.

The NLC pertains to registered nursing and licensed practical nursing licenses only. An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) must hold an individual state license in each state of APRN practice.

House Bill 1344 is scheduled for a legislative hearing Wednesday afternoon. If successful, the bill will move on to the house floor next week, Clere said.

Currently, nurses in Indiana and Kentucky must obtain two separate licenses to practice in each state. That dual licensing can be both costly, as well as difficult to maintain, for nurses on both sides of the Ohio River.

Additionally, local healthcare systems that serve both Indiana and Kentucky are experiencing gaps in service because staff nurses without the dual licensing can’t freely cross between the states to backfill when staffing is low at sister facilities.

Clere said this ultimately impacts local patients by limiting access to care due to those gaps in service.

The compact will help alleviate all the tension points, Clere believes.

“It’s solving a workforce issue and it’s an opportunity to improve patient access and care,” he said.

Clere first wrote the bill two years ago. However, last summer it went to a legislative study committee to ensure all questions and concerns were addressed, he said.

Now, the bill is making it's way through the statehouse and, Clere said, its future has only improved over time.

“It has gained a lot of momentum and support over the past two years,” Clere said, adding he is “optimistic” that the bill will be received favorably by both the house and the state senate. He anticipates it will be signed into law this year.

Clere said he and many other legislators believe it is time Indiana joins the compact and increases the benefits to all involved across the state.

“We are not early adopters. Other states have proven this can work and that it has delivered on the promised benefits,” Clere said.

Hosparus was the first organization to approach Clere regarding the need for such a bill.

Gwen Cooper, a senior vice president with Hosparus Health, said her organization has worked with elected officials on both sides of the river, as well as Greater Louisville Inc. and One Southern Indiana, to push this initiative forward. 

Hosparus Health is one of the top 20 nonprofit hospice organizations in the United States, serving nearly 8,000 patients and their families in 37 counties in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, according to the company’s website.

Cooper said having staff nurses in both states practicing under the NLC would increase the amount of coverage her company can provide patients in multiple counties on both sides of the river. She said this will also help advance telemedicine locally, as well.

“It’s truly a win for everyone,” she said.

Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of 1si, agreed with Cooper, saying Indiana’s participation in the NLC would be a victory for the region on multiple fronts.

“In the last several years, we have seen ownership changes of three major hospitals in Southern Indiana. Floyd Memorial was acquired by Baptist Health, and both Clark Memorial and Scott Memorial are now owned by a consortium that includes the Norton Hospital network,” she said in an e-mail response.

“Healthcare employers will be able to deploy nursing talent where needed, regardless of which side of the state line their facilities are located. This helps to assure area residents will have nurses when and where they are needed.”

Additionally, she said, “Nurses will have more flexibility for short- or long-term assignments without the expense and frustration of onerous licensing processes.”

Dant Chesser believes this initiative was so important for the Southern Indiana community that she went to Indianapolis last summer — along with Dr. Dan Eichenberger of Baptist Health Floyd — to testify when the compact was the subject of the legislative study committee.

“As a business association, we have members who are seeking better ways to serve their customers. This is our way to support them,” Dant Chesser said.

“But we also recognize Clark, Floyd and Scott counties are tied to the regional economy of the Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area, and we support ways for businesses to grow and serve within this regional framework.”

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