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COVID-19: Temporary licenses possible for Illinois nursing students

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SPRINGFIELD (WEEK) - As Illinois public health officials announce close to 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across 54 counties, there are renewed calls for more frontline hospital staff.

Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora) said Gov. JB Pritzker should provide temporary licenses to nursing students finishing their degrees this Spring.

"At some point two or three weeks from now, we may have a real shortage of staff," Oberweis said. "So, this would be a big win there and it's a win for the hospitals too. They'll have more staff available to help those patients who are in need."

Oberweis believes adding nursing students could help in many areas to save time for doctors and other medical personnel. However, he said hospitals would need extra personal protective equipment in order to add more staff.

Officials from HSHS St. John's Hospital in Springfield say they're happy to hear this is being discussed.

"Nursing students and medical students who are close to graduating would have the skills necessary to step in and help patients during this time of need," stated HSHS St. John's Chief Nursing Officer Allison Paul and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gurpreet Mander.

"Every and any way we can"

Hayley Taylor is a Registered Nurse at St. John's. She agrees this is a good idea, but says it could be hard without the student's mentor. "So we have that pressure of losing your backup of a professor and then you come into a pandemic when you never know what tomorrow is gonna look like," Taylor said.

Gov. Pritzker is working on a plan with his legal team and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to grant temporary licenses to these students. "We need health care workers and we need to add to our workforce in every and any way we can," Pritzker said Tuesday afternoon.

Ohio lawmakers recently approved a similar plan allowing the Ohio Board of Nursing to issue temporary licenses to students who completed a board approved nursing program and background checks. Oberweis says Illinois should try to authorize course credit for students who get the chance to work during the pandemic. He thinks that could be a big incentive for more students to help the hospitals.

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Mike Miletich

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