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Advocates, N.J. lawmakers seek fully staffed nursing board to expedite licensing, certification

Lawmakers and nursing advocates call for action to relieve the backlog in approving nursing licenses and home health-aide certifications.

Lawmakers and nursing advocates call for action to relieve the backlog in approving nursing licenses and home health-aide certifications. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Some New Jersey lawmakers and advocacy groups are urging the Christie administration to fill six vacancies on the state’s 13-member Board of Nursing.

Insufficient staff and funding are holding up about 4,000 trained professionals who await their nursing license or home health-aide certification, said Avery Hart, a public member of the Nursing Board.

“We’re looking at a pretty serious nursing shortage in the state,” she said Monday during a Statehouse news conference. “You have economic activity that can’t take place because people are waiting a year and a half to get a job that they’ve trained for.”

Karen Barish, a nurse with the Home Health Care and Hospice Association, said it can take months for a home health aide to be certified.

“In that wait time, oftentimes we do lose those well-trained individuals who have the heart and soul to want to be a home health aide,” she said. “We lose them to other industries, whether fast food or manufacturing, etc., because people need to work.”

Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Bob Gordon call it a crisis of neglect that must be remedied. They’re planning a legislative hearing to investigate what can be done about the licensing backlog.

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