“We all have the basic knowledge as nurses.”

Kamron Steed is one of hundreds of nurses flooding into New York City to help combat the coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to relaxed licensing regulations, she’s able to come to where she is needed most during the crisis.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community.” Steed explained. That’s what drove her to pursue a career in medical care. Steed has an extensive background in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Before becoming a nurse, Steed worked for 10 years as a paramedic and has maintained her paramedic license since. 

Due to coronavirus fears, the hospital in Arkansas where Steed works saw much lower numbers of patients than normal. That’s a reality that the media seems to have missed.  While there are concerns about lack of capacity in hot spots, in other parts of the country, medical professionals are being underutilized.  

Steed explains that due to both COVID-19 not affecting pediatric patients as much and people avoiding trips to the hospital, the hospital she works at, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, had fewer patients. Steed’s hospital continued to give staff their normal hours but began to encourage them to take paid time off or vacation time. 

“I have always been one to respond. If there’s something going on I’m usually there to help,” she explained. “I thought of the need for nurses in New York. Even my kids asked, ‘are you going to New York?’”

Several nurses at her hospital wanted to help out in hot spots. The managers at the hospital created a lottery, allowing a set number from each department to go help in New York. Those selected would be gone for five weeks—three in New York and two at home for quarantine following the trip. 

Steed was connected with an agency helping staff New York medical facilities. She’ll now be working 21 straight days, on whatever shift she’s assigned.

Occupational Licensing

Normally, it would be hard to go work as a nurse in another state. Despite the fact that all nurses have to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse, different states have different applications and standards for state licensure. But in order to meet needs during  this time of crisis, New York has recognized out-of-state licenses. This means that Steed only had to provide her license number and undergo a background check before practicing in New York. 

The crisis motivated this reduction in licensing barriers, but permanent reforms would help even during a non-crisis time. Steed thinks that, even after the pandemic is over, states should have a compact to recognize licenses. The NCLEX provides a national baseline to measure competency, states do not need to impose further regulations and paperwork on nurses. 

Kamron’s time in New York will certainly be hard work, but she described the feeling of camaraderie among her fellow nurses: “the rallying around each other and being the support system around each other is really good.”

People are getting the help they need and others are having the opportunity to use their skills to solve a crisis. States should consider creating more opportunities like this so that people can use their skills wherever they are needed most during this crisis and as our country recovers. 

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