Ohio nurses wait months for license approval amid COVID-19, staff shortages

Some Ohio nurses are frustrated with the state's board of nursing over license processing delays, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sept. 8. 

In some cases, the delays caused newly hired nurses to push back their job start dates as they waited months from the time they submitted their applications to the time they received their practice license from the Ohio State Board of Nursing. This comes as the nation's hospitals are already grappling with an unprecedented nursing shortage. 

While Shavon Hall, RN, was offered a nursing position at a Cleveland Clinic hospital in January, she had to push back her start date three times as she waited to receive her license. In July, four months after submitting her application to the state's nursing board, she received her license, she told the Columbus Dispatch. 

Aside from longer processing times, the board has been hard to reach, some Ohio nurses report. 

"Trying to call and get in touch with someone was like non-existent. It was always like, 'We're experiencing high phone calls right now; call back at a later time,'" Ms. Hall told the publication. 

The Ohio State Board of Nursing pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the recent delays, citing new state laws that have increased administrative burden on it's staff. For example, the board saw a 35 percent surge in the number of applications received in 2020 compared to 2019 after a law enacted in March 2020 required it to grant temporary licenses to nursing graduates without any licensure examination. That rule lasted through this past July

Budget and hiring freezes have also played a factor, the board told the news publication. Staff numbers have hovered near or above 80 employees — a figure that has remained relatively stable before and during the pandemic, according to state employee count data cited by the Columbus Dispatch.

Difficulty contacting the board is due to the higher number of applications and limited staff, the board said.

"There are periods of time when the board has prioritized the issuance of licenses over answering telephone calls," the board told the Columbus Dispatch. "The rationale is that by far, the most common call is to task when a license will be issued." 

The Ohio Department of Administrative Services said the nursing board was granted approval to add six full-time positions over the summer, some of which may be dedicated to answering calls.


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