Bipartisan bill seeks to recruit more nurses

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A Republican senator and the Democratic Speaker of the 35th Guam Legislature have teamed up and introduced a bipartisan bill to get more qualified nurses for the island.

Bill No. 239-35 (COR), introduced by Senator Mary Camacho Torres and Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes would add Guam to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), allowing nurses in other NLC states to practice on Guam without having to obtain additional licenses.

According to the sponsors, the bill is a culmination of months of dialogue with the Guam Board of Nurse Examiners.

As PNC reported, local hospitals have been forced to divert patients to Naval Hospital Guam due to an overflow in emergency rooms caused by the nursing shortage on Guam.

“If we have hospital beds, but not enough nurses to tend to the patients, this creates a ripple effect that now impacts those who rush to the Emergency Room for life-threatening emergencies. Especially when time is of the essence—we need to be able to take care of our community during their time of need and that is why we introduced this bill,” stated Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes in a news release.

Bill 239 seeks to address Guam’s shortage by streamlining the burdensome and expensive process associated with obtaining multiple licenses. Membership to the NLC would allow Guam to recruit from a pool of over 2 million nurses from 34 member states. With Guam as a hub for the United States Armed Forces, the measure would further permit spouses of Active Duty personnel stationed on Guam to contribute to the local community.

To ensure Guam retains local nurses, Bill 239 exempts recent graduates of the University of Guam nursing program from applying for multistate licensure for at least two years. Moreover, any multistate nurses are required to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check system before being granted a license accepted in other compact states.

“Bill 239 is a simple solution to a longstanding issue. Adding Guam to the NLC increases access to care, protects patient safety, and reduces burdensome costs for qualified nurses. I’m thankful to have the Speaker’s partnership and hope my colleagues will join us in supporting this measure,” Senator Torres said.

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