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How the state addresses nursing profession
Hill Jack
State Sen. Jack Hill

Last month, National Nurses Week celebrated the work that nurses perform to provide quality care for patients every day. In Georgia, there are currently over 164,600 active nursing licensees, including approximately 119,200 registered nurses (RNs), 35,700 licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and 9,700 advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Advanced nurse practitioners include nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, and clinical nursing specialists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that RN employment is expected to grow 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, while LPN employment will grow 25 percent. This projected increase is driven by growing demand for health care services for the aging baby boomer population as well as a greater focus on preventative care.

Two agencies in Georgia that support the improvement of nurses. as well as the nurses of tomorrow. are the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards program. Created in 1907, the Georgia Board of Nursing consists of 13 governor-appointed members that span the roles of nursing educators, registered nurses in administration, advanced practice nurses, licensed practical nurses, and consumers. The Nursing Board members support the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards staff to approve licenses and nursing education programs, and develop and enforce nursing standards, laws and regulations. The Professional Licensing Boards provides administrative support to the nursing board through licensing and legal services, and investigating complaints.

Protecting the public

As a regulatory entity, Georgia Board of Nursing members is the final administrator for complaints against nurses, and is permitted to take disciplinary action such as suspending, restricting, or revoking a nurse’s license; imposing fines or fees; or refusing to grant or renew a

license. New mandatory reporting requirements went into effect July 2014 to ensure high standards of nursing in Georgia.
From the 2013 legislative session, Georgia House Bill 315 requires nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, staffing agencies, and other employers to report the names of any nurse suspected or found guilty of misconduct to the Georgia Board of Nursing or the Board of Examiners of Licensed Practical Nurses. Misconduct includes practicing as a nurse (RN, LPN, APRN) without a valid license, practicing with a fraudulent or suspended license, conviction of a felony (e.g., possession of a controlled substance) while holding a nursing license, or an inability to safely practice nursing due to substance abuse. Employers must also report nurses who were fired or resigned due to these violations.

Since July 2014, GBON has received 470 LPN complaints and 1,065 complaints on RNs. Once a complaint is received, staff determines the need for an investigation and assigns the case to an investigator if necessary. If a violation has been determined, evidence will guide what action is taken. GBON maintains a Web site for the public to review nurses found guilty of licensing and other violations as well as the disciplinary actions taken on the case.

To provide support for professional licensing including nurses, the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards program will receive an additional $670,468 in fiscal year 2016 in part to fully fund nine staff members for mandatory reporting requirements: two nursing consultants, four complaint and compliance specialists, and three investigators.

Other funds for staff additions include $513,148 for five call center agents, one investigator, one board support specialist, and two licensure specialists to review applications and enforce penalties. Together, GBON and the Professional Licensing Board will help ensure those committing misconduct are held accountable.

Focus on continued development

Georgia’s nurses have active participation in continuing education and development in practice. GBON oversees 51 RN and 25 LPN education programs in Georgia, and visits all programs annually to grant or renew approval.

Beginning with the 2016 renewal cycle, continued competency development will become mandatory for RNs’ application for license renewal. The requirements may be satisfied through either the completion of 30 hours of continuing education, certification renewal, completion of an accredited academic program, 500 hours of practice in a health system, or other approved activities — all by way of GBON-approved providers. Similarly, an LPN must complete 20 hours of continuing education or complete an accredited academic program. Georgia can become more confident with nursing services knowing that there is progress in nurses upgrading their knowledge and skill.

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