HEALTH

Lawmakers blame Christie Administration for nurse shortage

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

With more than 4,000 professionals awaiting a nursing license or certification in New Jersey, top Democratic lawmakers say the state Board of Nursing is in crisis.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said, “It is understaffed, underfunded resulting in an unacceptable delay in licensing and certification of thousands of nursing professionals who are trained and ready to begin working.”

Medical professionals backed that accusation at a state house press conference today. Claiming Gov. Christie’s administration has siphoned money from the board for general coffers, leaving six of the 13 board positions vacant and work screeching to a halt.

You can think of the board of nursing as the watchdog protecting patients by overseeing all nurses in NJ. It issues licenses, investigates complaints and adopts regulations.

Dr. Avery Hart of NJ Board of Nursing said, “When I first came on the board we had people go out to do investigations when we needed them. There’s no longer anybody there to do that. The staff is just struggling. We have between 250-400 disciplinary issues that come up every month.”

Hart is a 13 year member of the board. She claims the staff shortage has created up to an 18 month backlog for nurses awaiting disciplinary action to have their cases heard. She says many are exonerated, but lose their livelihood and reputation in the meantime.

Hart said, “It’s like being given a broom and being put on a beach and someone saying come on sweep all this sand out of here with a little broom we just don’t have the resources.”

Dr. Benjamin Evans, president of NJ State Nurses Association President said, “How do we hold ourselves out as quality healthcare providers when we are making people wait six to eight months after graduating from their professional programs, at baccalaureate, masters or the doctoral level and then they don’t have success passing their boards or certification.”

Senator Bob Gordon said, “The board of nursing also oversees the certification of home health aides and it took us three years of budget resolutions to add $250K to the budget for staffing to address the backlog in home healthcare aide licensing applications.”

But the state disputes all of these claims. The Office of Attorney General cited, “significant reforms reducing inefficiencies to greatly expedite nurse licensure.” Negating the backlog of nurses waiting to get certified as a “sudden influx” of requests normal for this time of year post graduation. And blaming the legislature for “permitting the transfer of excess funds from professional boards to other Divisions within the Department.”

The Democratic leaders are calling a Senate oversight hearing in the coming months to get to the root cause. They’re demanding Gov. Christie address the staffing situation to put the board back to work and in turn the state’s nearly 200,000 nurses.

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