FILE - NY covid-19 test 7-27-2020

Nurse Jen Molstead gives volunteer Melissa Harting of Harpersville, New York, a nasal swab test July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, New York.

(The Center Square) – Nearly a thousand out-of-state doctors and nurses are driving the conversation about licensing reform in Wisconsin.

The Badger Institute this week released a report that highlights how changes in the state’s process to get doctors and nurses working in the fight against the coronavirus is working. 

The Institute found that Wisconsin received 1,177 total applications from health care professionals looking to practice here between April 1 and Oct. 31. The Department of Safety and Professional Services granted 937 of those.

“We were impressed with the volume and quality of applications Wisconsin received, and with how quickly DSPS was able to turn them around,” Badger Institute policy analyst Julie Grace told The Center Square. “It’s a very streamlined process that’s worked well for professionals, employers, and residents of the state.”

The Badger Institute has pushed for licensing reform for years, and not just for healthcare workers. Grace said there are a lot of industries and businesses that could benefit greatly by relaxing barriers for people seeking to work. 

“Wisconsin issues 280 different credentials to professionals who work in various industries and sectors across the state,” Grace said. “If this works for healthcare professionals, it should work with all other licensed professions as well. If a teacher, barber or architect is licensed in another state, why require them to jump through costly and time-consuming hoops when they move to Wisconsin?”

Grace said other states are moving in that direction. This summer, she said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a law that allows workers to apply for a license before moving to the state. It also recognizes licenses from people who are in good standing in neighboring states. Arizona and Pennsylvania passed similar laws months before the pandemic began, and others continue to adopt similar versions of ‘universal license recognition.’

“[Wisconsin] lawmakers should use this experiment as proof that streamlining the licensing process attracts qualified professionals to Wisconsin,” Grace added. “It should also be a model going forward. This temporary policy shows that such a law would work in Wisconsin, too, and should be made permanent.”