What You Need to Know: The Latest Changes in Medical Licensing

Bob Miller

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, possibly forever. Healthcare is also changing, having been hit hard by an unprecedented wave of a capacity surge. Healthcare organizations are operating under a State of Emergency order, and that has changed some restrictions on medical licensing. This article will share what we know about the latest announcements affecting healthcare professionals in the United States.

How the Emergency Declaration Affected Healthcare Licensure

The COVID-19 crisis requires a response that is just as fast as the virus. This includes the easing of restrictions of occupational state licensure laws that would prevent qualified healthcare professionals from responding to the pandemic. Easing these types of restrictions is a common practice during emergencies. Typically we see state and federal governments easing restrictions on healthcare workers, infrastructure employees, or other services critical to recovering from a disaster situation.

Most of the professions so critical to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic face stringent regulations and restrictions that would limit their ability to respond to the crisis. While business, as usual, requires these restrictions to keep patients safe and ensure the quality of healthcare services, these restrictions must be loosened to improve the speed and efficacy or our response during emergencies.

Most states have responded by waiving licensure restrictions. With the national emergency came a declaration by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive state-specific licensure requirements. This caused many state governors to follow suit and declare their own emergency declarations and reinforce the easing of licensure restrictions. While local rules vary, here are some examples of how things have changed:

  • Colorado
    The Governor requested semi-retired and retired clinicians to come back to work and support healthcare providers to help alleviate some of the worker shortages. The state extended a waiver for clinicians whose licensure had expired. The Governor also requested the help of fourth-year medical students to help screen hospital visitors.
  • Massachusetts
    The Governor in Massachusetts also ordered physicians that retired in good standing within the last year could immediately reactivate their licenses. He also extended expiring registrations for pharmacists, nurses, and physician assistants till 90-days past the time the emergency declaration is over.
  • Washington
    Washington was the first state hardest hit in the nation. The emergency response to the pandemic was to open licensure to emergency volunteer healthcare practitioners who held a license in good standing—even if their licensure had expired.

Additionally, other states crafted their response to the pandemic, including Arizona, California, Louisiana, and Tennessee, who each authorized out-of-state practitioners to work as long as they held a license in good standing from any other state in the nation.

On March 18, Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the easing of regulations that prohibited clinicians from practicing across state lines. For states that had yet to ease the licensure restrictions, this was a welcome move that allowed additional support for overstressed clinical teams.

The MedSource team is standing by to support healthcare organizations in their efforts to respond quickly and appropriately to the COVID-19 crisis. We appreciate the continued support of state and federal governments to help us in our efforts to provide quality care.

MedSource is dedicated to working with healthcare organizations to ensure they have the staffing necessary to respond to all crises. We are standing by to help you cope.