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How Professional Licensure Delays Harm the Health Care Workforce

April 24, 2023

Improving the professional licensure review and approval processes will help address health care workforce shortages across Pennsylvania.

This morning, a panel of health care providers and state officials appeared before the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee to discuss how delays in licensing and credentialing affect patient care. Panelists noted that months-long delays in the licensure review process hold back nurses and physicians from entering the workforce and hurt the commonwealth’s recruitment and retention efforts.

“Licensing process delays have real, immediate, and negative effects in filling open positions to care for patients,” said Sarah R. Biggs, assistant vice president, talent acquisition, St. Luke’s University Health Network.

Among the key points raised during the hearing:

  • Seasonal rise:  The wait times to review practice permits and post results for clinical licensure exams significantly increase during the spring, as graduating classes of nurses and physicians look to enter the workforce.
  • Competitive burden:  States with faster processes and review times see benefits in recruiting because applicants know their materials will be reviewed quickly and that they will be able to get to work sooner.
  • Compact impact:  Advancing the nurse and physician licensure compacts will support the overall health care workforce, but the compacts alone won’t alleviate the underlying credentialing and licensure delays that exist in Pennsylvania.
  • Scope of practice:  Allowing nurse practitioners to work to the full extent of their licenses can help support additional workforce flexibility.
  • Taking action:  Increasing staffing to address the review process, improving web-based portals, and other system-wide improvements will bolster the commonwealth’s licensure and credentialing process.

Following the provider panel, officials with the Department of State discussed vacancies within the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, efforts to decrease processing times, and updates to the state’s licensing portals.

K. Kalonji Johnson, deputy secretary of regulatory affairs, noted a new executive order from the governor’s office requires state agencies to catalog the licenses, certifications, and permits they issue, and establish ideal processing times for applications.

“We have heard from the applicants themselves, whether they are nurses, barbers, or engineers, of the need to be able to start their careers,” the Department of State said in prepared remarks. “They cannot begin to work without their license.”

The discussion about licensure and credentialing continues this week with a hearing before the House Professional Licensure Committee on Wednesday. HAP continues to emphasize the need to improve the licensing and credentialing process to support our state’s health care workforce and the hospitals delivering care across the commonwealth. Streamlining clinician licensing is among the key policy recommendations made by HAP’s Health Care Talent Task Force to grow and support the health care workforce.

The hearing is available to watch online.

For additional information, contact Heather Tyler, vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Mary Marshall, senior director, workforce and professional development.