A nurse works at a computer
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Nurses are growing increasingly frustrated with significant delays getting licenses needed to work in new states, an accommodation employers increasingly need to address severe staffing shortages. 

Pennsylvania, one of several states that implemented a nurse license waiver program allowing nurses from other states to work there, was found to have one of the longest wait times for issued licenses in the country, an NPR data analysis revealed.

NPR found more than 6,000 of the 12,000 nurses who were issued licenses to work in the state in 2021 waited more than three months or longer to get them. 

“They’re emotionally exhausted; they’re physically exhausted. We add to that the frustration of not being able to get your license,” Betsy Snook, CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, told the news organization. “Now, you can’t even work. You’re at the mercy of the State Board of Nursing.”

Nurse licensing time frame data obtained by McKnight’s in late 2021 showed that Florida, Kentucky, Vermont and Nebraska are among the quickest states for sending out nurse licenses — with all issuing the documentation within two weeks. 

Pennsylvania and Minnesota were among the states with the longest time frames, taking 25 to 30 business days and up to 60 days, respectively, to deliver licenses. 

The Pennsylvania Department of State’s website shows about a 12-week process for the initial registered nurse license and slightly shorter for recent graduates, according to Eric Heisler, director of external communications for the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. 

“One of PHCA’s first requests to the governor’s office at the start of the pandemic was workforce waivers,” Heisler told McKnight’s Wednesday. “They have been, and remain, critical in helping to bring caregivers to the front lines to help provide care, because even when we try to make the [a] permanent fixture, we still run into issues.”