Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed an executive order that will let drug counselors, physical therapists and other health professionals practice in their field even if they aren’t licensed in Nebraska, to try to address staffing shortages that have grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order signed Wednesday is part of an effort to increase the number of healthcare professionals by relaxing the state’s license requirements. It will remain in effect through the end of the year.
The governor’s office said the order was an extension of his decision to declare a ” hospital staffing emergency ” in August, which was triggered because of a backlog of largely non-virus patients who put off getting medical treatment earlier in the pandemic.
One part of the order allows alcohol and drug counselors, speech-language pathologists, nursing home administrators and others to work in Nebraska even if the state hasn’t licensed them, as long as they have a license in good standing in some other state. It also lets those whose licenses are expired or lapsed to renew them more easily, by submitting an application to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Additionally, Ricketts suspended continuing competency requirements for physical therapists and others to make it easier for them to remain on the job.
Marcia Mueting, the CEO of the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, said the order temporarily suspends a state law that limits the number of student pharmacists and technicians that a pharmacist can supervise to three at one time.
Mueting said pharmacists’ workloads have increased sharply because of patients who are getting influenza vaccines in addition to COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots. She said the industry was struggling with a shortage of pharmacists even before the pandemic, and some retailers are offering hiring bonuses as big as $50,000 to try to attract candidates.
“Everybody is stretched really thin,” she said.