New law will allow graduating nurses to start practicing sooner


            STATE HOUSE — A new law sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Valarie Lawson and Rep. Stephen M. Casey will allow graduate registered nurses to begin practicing before taking their national licensing exam.

The legislation (2024-S 2083, 2024-H 7826), which was part of the Senate’s HEALTH Initiative of legislative priorities, was signed by the governor Tuesday after passage by the General Assembly.

“This is an easy step we can take to help out with the nursing shortage in the short term and make life easier on new nurses and the hospitals that employ them,” said Representative Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket). “We did the same thing during the pandemic by executive order, so we know that it works.”

Said Senator Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), “It’s important to consider all the tools we have available to us to ease the shortage of health care workers in Rhode Island. Allowing registered nurses who have graduated their programs to begin their on-the-job training before their test results is one of those tools, one that nurses and health care facilities have been asking for.”

The law allows graduate nurses to begin practicing before taking and receiving results from the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), the licensing examine developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, provided that they are licensed within 90 days.

Advocates for the law point out that graduating registered nurses undergo weeks of extensive training and supervision by experienced nurses when they begin their new jobs. Requiring them to have passed this exam before starting that training only delays new hires from making an impact in Rhode Island’s short-staffed medical system.

“The Hospital Association of Rhode Island extends its gratitude to Senator Lawson and Representative Casey for their leadership in championing this important legislation,” said M. Teresa Paiva Weed, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. “By allowing nursing graduates to practice pending the results of their NCLEX, this law provides a critical buffer that helps bridge the gap between academic preparation and full licensure. This change will not only bolster our health care workforce but also support new graduates as they transition into their professional roles, reducing administrative delays that currently hinder immediate employment and practice.


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