How Arizona’s new reciprocity law affects nurses

On Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2569 into law. The new law establishes reciprocity for occupational and professional license or certificate holders who come to Arizona from out-of-state.

In a press release, Ducey celebrated the law as the first of its kind in the nation and mentioned nursing among the occupations in this quote:

“There’s dignity in all work,” said Governor Ducey. “And we know that whether you make your living as a plumber, a barber, a nurse or anything else, you don’t lose your skills simply because you moved here. The bill we signed today protects public health and safety while eliminating unnecessary and costly red tape.”

In the below interview, Robin Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Arizona Nurses Association, clarifies what the bill means for nurses in Arizona.

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Robin Schaeffer: Here’s how it applies to nursing: It really doesn’t change much for us.

The new law has a list of exemptions and an interstate compact is one of those exemptions. Arizona is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, an interstate agreement to recognize each other’s licensees. It was developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to facilitate interstate practice and regulation. Arizona is one of 31 compact states and eight more states are exploring similar legislation. So, any of those nurses coming in from any of the compact states already get what’s similar to reciprocity: They can work over state lines; and, when they decide to become a resident of Arizona, most of the work to secure an Arizona-based nursing license is already done.

The nurses who enter our state from a non-compact state will go through the same criteria that we have right now for nursing.

We’re supportive of the bill the governor signed; however, it doesn’t really change much for the nursing profession.

Sara Gentzler: Is there any situation in which it will make the process easier for a nurse in Arizona?

RS: It’s pretty much the same. Nursing, is forward-facing to the public and committed to patient safety and therefore has always been highly regulated. Most states require the same criteria for initial licensure and re-licensure that Arizona requires. For example, there’s only one national exam and each state requires nurses to pass that exam before being licensed. The nursing board in Arizona already has a fast turnaround mechanism in place if someone needs to come in and get a temporary license. We’ve made sure that — if there was a situation like a Hurricane Katrina and it was in Arizona, that required more nurses to deliver emergency care — we could issue temporary licenses to nurses from non-compact states, quickly.

SG: I picked out nursing because the governor mentioned it, briefly, in a press release quote. He didn’t necessarily imply that things would change for nurses, but it made me curious.

RS: I am pleased that the governor mentioned nurses in his press release. I think what’s satisfying and good, when you delve more into the profession of nursing, is that we have processes that cover various situations.

And the part that facilitates endorsement and reciprocity, maybe on a fast track when there’s a reason for it, there’s already a process in place for that. Again, we support the concept of this law. I just happen to be part of a profession that already has a way to transfer a license or receive a temporary license through a comprehensive process.

SG: It sounds, then, like this might be more of a law that fills in the gaps for occupations that aren’t so heavily regulated — but that it doesn’t quite touch nursing the way it does others.

RS: That would be fair. Especially because we have so many states in the compact, and more in the queue hopefully passing legislation for it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.