Tennessee lawmakers push to have the state enter additional healthcare professional licensure compacts


Maddie McCarthy


The Tennessee General Assembly currently has three pending pieces of legislature that all aim to have the state join interstate licensure compacts for different healthcare professionals.

The compacts currently being considered are for physicians assistants (PAs), social workers, and dietitians. 

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Tennessee’s entry into any of these compacts, as long as the compact is active, would allow for the licensed professionals to practice in any other compact state without needing to obtain a new license, and for clinicians from other compact states to practice in Tennessee. This lowers administrative barriers for clinicians looking to expand or move their practice.

Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) sponsors one of the PA compact bills, Senate Bill 1727. Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) sponsors the PA compact bill in the opposite chamber under House Bill 1862.

“Other professions in Tennessee such as nurses and [other] physicians currently have compact licensure agreements in place,” Jackson said during a committee meeting last week. “This bill would open those same opportunities for the physicians assistants.”

Currently, three states are part of the PA compact and 15 have introduced legislation to join. Seven states would need to join in order for it to activate.

Marie Patterson, president of the Tennessee Academy of Physicians Assistants and member of the state licensing board for PAs in Tennessee, spoke in favor of the bill and said she has been working on this legislation with the Federation of State Medical Boards. 

She said she wants PAs to have the same opportunities as other medical professionals who are part of licensure compacts. She also discussed how this could help PAs living near the borders of Tennessee to be able to practice both in Tennessee and the bordering state, if that state is part of the compact.

“I did bring up in Washington multiple times that Tennessee borders more states than anyone else in the country, [same] with Missouri, with our eight bordering states and how that is a factor,” Patterson said. “I know, personally, multiple PAs are in that situation.”

SB 1727 has been referred to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and HB1862 is pending in the House Health Committee.

Faison also sponsors HB 1863, which would enter Tennessee into the licensure compact for dietitians. Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), sponsors the same bill in the Senate under SB 1862.

“What we’re doing is kind of the same thought [as HB 1862],” Faison said. “This would make it to where a dietitian could operate and practice in other states that have entered into the compact. Several of our contiguous states are about to do it. Plenty of them have it in their committees and their legislature this year.”

According to the dietitian compact website, five states have pending legislation to join, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio, but no states have enacted that legislature.

HB 1863 is pending in the House Health Committee and SB 1862 is pending in the Senate Government Operations Committee.

HB 2405, sponsored by Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova), and SB 2134, sponsored by Sen. Page Walley (R-Savannah), would enter Tennessee into the Social Work Licensure Compact. Both bills were filed at the end of January.

The latest draft of the legislation outlines a variety of objectives that joining the compact is designed to achieve. 

Some of those objectives include increasing access to social work services, promoting mobility and addressing workforce shortages by eliminating the need for social workers to hold multiple state licenses, and reducing excessively burdensome requirements associated with holding multiple state licenses.

HB 2405 has been assigned to the House Health Subcommittee and SB 2134 is pending in the Senate Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee is already a member of a variety of compacts, the largest being the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). Forty-one jurisdictions are a part of the NLC and many states are looking to join. 

Furthermore, in 2023, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation to join the licensure compact for dentists and dental hygienists.

In 2022, Tennessee also passed legislation that allowed the state to join the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact and the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact. When enacted, an amendment placed the compacts in the June 2024 sunset review cycle. 

Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) filed SB 1618 at the beginning of January which would extend the occupational therapy compact to June 30th, 2026. The bill has passed both the House and the Senate, and is currently enrolled and waiting for signatures.

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