If the virus hit hard in Alabama, I would want nurses from all over to come help.” 

Kimberly Littleton saw the need for nurses in New York and jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assist in a national crisis and be a part of history.

Littleton didn’t know that she wanted to become a nurse until college. During that time, the health condition of a relative sent her in the direction of nursing. As a nurse working in the catheterization lab at Shelby Hospital in Alabaster, Alabama, Littleton was facing reduced hours due to canceled elective procedures because of concerns about COVID. Originally from Clanton, Alabama, Littleton saw this as an opportunity to put her extensive experience in the intensive care unit (ICU) to use in New York. 

She explains: “If the virus hit hard in Alabama, I would want nurses from all over to help. I couldn’t imagine what those nurses were going through, working so understaffed so many days in a row.”

Littleton had a smooth journey to New York. She contacted a recruiter for a travel agency who then found her a placement in New York. Littleton left behind a boyfriend and her dog, along with many extended family members, and appreciated the support (and concern) that they expressed: “Everyone kept saying they were very proud of me and that they would pray for me every day. That made my heart smile and I knew then I was making the right decision.” 

While it would usually be a complicated process to practice nursing in another state, New York has loosened its license requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Littleton thinks that the reduced regulation on nurse licenses should continue even after the crisis is over. “The process of getting a license for other states is not easy. It is time-consuming and aggravating,” she said. “I honestly believe it should be permanent. As a nurse, I should be able to go work anywhere without any question.” 

All nurses are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, the NCLEX, before they become registered nurses. Yet despite this national standard, many states require separate applications and extensive paperwork which results in a long delay before a nurse can begin working in the new state. 

Littleton is putting her ICU experience to good use in New York. She works 12-hour night shifts 4 days a week during her 8-week assignment. She’s been assigned to the pediatric intensive care unit, normally for children, but this hard-hit New York hospital ran out of space in the ICU so she is treating adult COVID patients there. 

Originally apprehensive about the “New Yorker” personality, Littleton’s concerns proved unfounded.  She says that everyone is dedicated to caring for their patients through this crisis and appreciative of the help. She says: “The teamwork is great. I honestly didn’t think that it would be this good.”

Hopefully, states will learn from this crisis and will recognize how unnecessarily burdensome the normal licensing process is for registered nurses. With a national standard in place, individual states do not need to impose other requirements on nurses looking to practice within their borders.

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