In some states, though, licensing delays and their impacts are clear. NBC News spoke to the leaders of nine health care professional organizations in three states who said wait times for licenses are worse than they’ve ever been. Licensing agencies that were already slow and understaffed were put under additional pressure by the pandemic. They’ve dealt with an influx of applicants, had to adapt antiquated paper-based application systems to remote work and built emergency licensing processes nearly overnight. In 2021 and 2022, they’ve lost staff to the Great Resignation.
That pressure created backlogs. From Wisconsin nurses to New York psychologists, health care workers said in the past year or more they’ve waited months longer than normal for approval to work. In New Jersey, some social workers have been waiting more than 18 months.
Covid-19 forced every licensing agency to adapt. Emergency rules to bring in temporary health care workers and allow a wave of new telehealth providers, along with a surge in people moving across state lines, meant an increased volume of applications and sometimes required creating a whole new emergency licensing system. At the same time, agencies were grappling with the many ways the pandemic disrupted lives, from unexpected and frequent staff absences to working remotely.NBC ‘A real crisis’: License backlogs in some states prevent health-care workers from seeing patients