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Maryland OKs out-of-state nurses to practice, encourages early graduation for nursing students amid nationwide shortage

Maryland will allow out-of-state licensed nurses to practice here, encourage early graduation for nursing students and ask hospital leaders to recruit nurses from other states as the country faces a nationwide shortage of medical staff amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the new measures Thursday as a way to increase nursing personnel at hospitals, although COVID cases in Maryland remain relatively low.

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“This week, Maryland reported the nation’s lowest COVID-19 case rate, and we continue to withstand the Delta variant surge better than just about any other state,” said Hogan, a Republican, in a statement. “While our hospitalizations remain well below all of our pandemic surge capacity triggers, we are taking proactive steps to maximize the ability of our hospitals to increase their nursing workforce.”

The Maryland Department of Health is allowing all registered nurses and licensed practical nurses with active licenses in other states to serve as nurses in Maryland. The department also is encouraging hospitals to recruit nursing students and nursing assistants in addition to out-of-state nurses.

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This announcement comes as hospitals across the country are experiencing a surge in COVID patients and a shortage of nursing staff. The United States is experiencing levels of infection not seen since last winter, averaging more than 116,000 new cases and 50,000 hospitalizations a day.

Hospitals now also are dealing with more non-COVID patients for everything from emergencies to surgeries and medical procedures previously postponed by the pandemic.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission is asking all state nursing programs to allow nursing students to graduate earlier than planned to increase the available nursing staff in the state.

In a letter to state nursing schools, James Fielder, secretary of the commission, encouraged schools to move up final exam dates and allow students with 3.9 grade point averages or higher an “early exit” from their programs.

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The commission asked schools to take similar steps back in 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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