Gov. Lee signs new executive order granting medical staff flexibility amid shortage

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FILE – In this Jan. 19, 2021, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions after he spoke to a joint session of the legislature at the start of a special session on education in Nashville, Tenn. Despite having some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, Tennessee isn’t planning to offer any incentives for people to get the shot. But it’s a different story when it comes to cattle, where the state has reimbursed farmers nearly half a million dollars over the past two years to vaccinate their herds against respiratory and other diseases. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a new executive order Friday to attempt to ease the burden on hospital staff across the state as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise.

Executive Order 83 allows out-of-state health care providers to practice in Tennessee by suspending previous legislation. Under the order, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey is granted the discretion to allow a licensed health care professional from another state to practice in Tennessee, so long as they are assisting in COVID-19 response.

The order also makes provisions to allow retired medical professionals to easily reenter the workforce. Dr. Piercy can grant a “license, certificate, or registration to a health care professional” who has not practiced in a period of time that would result in them no longer be certified.

Executive Order 83 would remove the need for a retired medical professional to “demonstrate continued competency or submit to an interview before a licensing board” as long as they meet all other requirements.

Lee’s new order also applies to nursing graduates. While in effect, the order allows “practical nursing graduates” to practice without examination while they are under supervision.

Nursing graduates may be employed by a licensed health care institution so long as they have both graduated from an approved school of nursing within 90 days and have received authorization to take the NCLEX-PN examination.

The practical nursing graduates must be supervised at all times, according to the executive order. They must also provide proof of the examination authorization and nursing school graduation. A supervisor may only be over one graduate nurse at a time.

The fourth item under the executive order provides flexibility to medical professional staffing and allows them to perform tasks outside of the “licensed scope of practice” while in a hospital. They may only do so if their facility has submitted a plan for staff flexibility and received approval.

Flexibility is also granted to other professionals. The order grants more staff flexibility to behavioral health inpatient psychiatric, residential and crisis care professionals. Those professionals will also be able to perform tasks outside of their typical scope of practice following approval of a plan from the state.

Executive Order 83 also grants staffing flexibility to health care students in multiple capacities such as inpatient acute care, rehabilitation services and inpatient psychiatric health settings.

The National Guard and State Guard may continue to be utilized for emergency services pertaining to the pandemic.

Ambulance transportation services in Tennessee are also granted flexibility by changing staffing requirements in units. You can see those changes below:

Ambulance driver qualifications are also addressed in the executive order. Due to staffing shortages, ambulance drivers may now be qualified if they are at least 18 years old, possess a Class D or Class F driver’s license and have at least one year of driving experience. Potential drivers must also complete an emergency vehicle operations class.

Two items within the executive order relate to payments to nursing facilities deemed “COVID-19 Skilled Nursing Facilities/Units.” Those items can be seen below:

Executive Order 83 also suspends the previous requirements to provide materials requesting additional hospital beds, so long as facilities are in need of more beds for COVID-19 patients.

The order states temporary quarantine and isolation facilities may be constructed. Safety inspections of those structures must take place.

Among the remaining items on the order are provisions for medical laboratories to provide more COVID-19 testing and allow their employees to work remotely.

According to the executive order, the inspections of mental health and substance abuse facilities are temporarily suspended. Health care licensing inspections and investigations have also been suspended under the executive order.

The last item on the order states that the inspections of health care facilities have been suspended.

The order goes into effect at 11;59 p.m. August 6 and remains in effect until the same time on October 5. Executive Order 83 supersedes the previous executive order signed on July 30.

You can read the entire Executive Order below:

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