Gov. Larry Hogan announced steps to bolster Maryland’s nursing workforce Thursday as hospitals are once again handling hundreds of COVID-19 patients across the state.
The measures are aimed at “providing hospitals with maximum flexibility to mitigate staffing shortages.” They include allowing nurses with out-of-state licenses to provide care in Maryland and early graduation for nursing students.
Thursday’s announcement comes as some Maryland hospitals have had to postpone elective procedures.
TidalHealth Peninsula Regional in Salisbury and TidalHealth Nanticoke in Seaford paused elective surgeries requiring an overnight stay beginning on Sept. 13
TidalHealth cited a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant and a “significant shortage of nurses.”
“A number have decided to leave the profession over the past several months for a variety of reasons, and while TidalHealth is taking action to support appropriate nursing levels today, it is working with local nursing schools to increase the supply of newly trained nurses for the future,” the company said when it announced the pause on elective procedures.
Hospitals across the nation are reporting staffing shortages, especially among nurses, according to a February report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
Maryland’s state health secretary, Dennis Schrader, outlined options for medical providers dealing with shortages in a letter to state hospital and nursing home leaders.
The options include working with local nursing programs to use student nurses as much as possible, recruiting nurses from states which allow their nurses to practice in multiple states, and allowing students to work as certified nursing assistants or physician assistants.
Thursday’s announcement also advised medical providers that nurses with active licenses in any state can practice in Maryland “during an emergency situation.”
Maryland is no longer in a state of emergency related to the pandemic, but the state health department has determined that the out-of-state licensing rules for nurses can still apply while a federal public health emergency declaration is in place.
Nearly 800 Marylanders are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to state data, representing another surge in cases. Hospitalizations remain below the worst surge of the pandemic last winter, when nearly 2,000 hospital beds were being used by COVID-19 patients.
Hogan said Thursday that Maryland’s hospitalizations “remain well below all of our pandemic surge capacity triggers.”
New Journal reporter Meredith Newman contributed reporting to this article.
Madeleine O’Neill covers the Maryland State House and state issues for the USA TODAY Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @maddioneill.