Those benefiting from scarcity are rarely willing to address it. Just look at the powerful special interests defending Nevada’s nursing shortage.
Nevada needs more nurses. And not just a few more. Nevada State Board of Nursing Executive Director Cathy Dinauer put the shortfall at around 4,000 during a recent legislative hearing. This isn’t just a problem for the Silver State. States around the country are struggling to find enough health care workers. One might think that every Nevadan has a vested interest in ensuring it’s as easy as possible for nurses to work here.
But Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Sandra Jauregui learned firsthand that’s not the case. She’s sponsoring Assembly Bill 108, which would have Nevada join the Nurse Licensure Compact. More than 35 states have already enacted the agreement. It allows nurses to move between participating states without having to obtain a new license. This is similar to how people are allowed to use their driver’s license in every state.
The human body doesn’t change from state to state. A nurse who can work in a majority of states doesn’t lose his or her skills by relocating here.
“The nurses in Nevada want this. Nurses overwhelmingly want the compact and the option of licensure mobility,” Ms. Dinauer said. “While the Board of Nursing can issue a temporary license in just a few days, sometimes the need for nurses is immediate and a few days to a nurse at the bedside can be a lifetime for the health of their victims and patients.”
But several labor unions — including SEIU 1107 and Nevada State AFL-CIO — opposed the bill. They claim they’re concerned about Nevada giving up authority to an outside agency. But that’s the window dressing on their real objections.
For one, a shortage of nurses increases their bargaining power, allowing them to demand ever-higher wages. For another, it’s likely harder to get a nurse from out of state to join a union, especially if the nurse plans to be here only a few months. Fewer union members means fewer union dues, which means less power for union officials. Less powerful unions mean weakened allies for Democratic lawmakers.
In a futile apparent attempt to mollify the unions, Ms. Jauregui offered an amendment requiring hospitals with collective bargaining agreements to give new nurses union information and request they meet with their union representative. Don’t expect that to be enough to earn the union’s backing.
It wasn’t enough. AB108 died Friday without a vote.
There is no evidence to indicate that states in the nursing compact have jeopardized their autonomy or suffered lapses in care of safety that can be traced to licensing reciprocity. If state lawmakers are serious about attracting more nurses to Nevada, it makes little sense to maintain barriers that discourage qualified professionals from moving and working here.
Unfortunately, too many Democrats prioritize their union allies over the needs of Nevadans.