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INDIANAPOLIS — There is a nursing shortage in Indiana with experts saying that altogether Indiana’s hospitals are understaffed by about 4,300 nurses.

Organizations like the Indiana Hospital Association have done what they can to get hospitals staffed, but they say one thing that is really hampering efforts to find enough nurses is the state’s licensing requirements for nurses to work in Indiana.

Rachel Culpepper leads a team of nurses at IU Heath West in Indianapolis. It’s her job to make sure that all departments within the hospital have the nurses they need. She tells WISH-TV that the state’s nursing reciprocity laws make it difficult for her to do her job.

“Sometimes we do have to make tough decisions on closing beds if we don’t have enough team members to staff the areas,” Culpepper said. “Many of us joined nursing because we want to care for patients. When we are unable to do that as effectively as we want, that can be demoralizing.”

What does she mean by reciprocity? Put simply, Culpepper said that the state’s process of getting nurses who move to Indiana from out-of-state licensed to work in Indiana takes too long. There is a program in place for medical personnel to work immediately with a temporary license while their full license is worked through the system. However, Brian Tabor with the IHA says that the program is only good as long as the federal COVID emergency order is in place.

“What we’ve all realized is that it’s an access crisis when we can’t get these individuals licensed quickly,” said Tabor. “Giving the agency the tools that it needs, we are hoping the legislature will support that and we can get nurses and doctors seeing patients more quickly.”

Tabor is hoping that lawmakers will draft legislation in the upcoming session of the General Assembly to address the state’s slow licensing practices.