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Lawmakers consider removing RN requirement for nursing board’s executive director

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Lawmakers are evaluating what expertise is needed to lead the Maryland Board of Nursing, as they consider legislation that would remove a requirement that the executive director have a registered nursing license to qualify for the position.

The board oversees nursing professionals across the state and ensures that nurses are complying with state and federal laws within the profession, according to the fiscal note for the bill. They also manage the licensing process for nurses.

Currently, the 18 members of the state nursing board appoint an executive director who is required to be a registered nurse (RN), among other qualifications.

But HB 1053, sponsored by Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery), would remove the RN requirement from the executive director position, which she says provides “more flexibility” in the selection process.

“We’re just requiring that the board of nursing… don’t have to have executive director with a nursing background,” Kaiser told the Senate Finance committee Thursday. “What’s interesting, however, is we’re leaving that with board to appoint that person. So they could still, on their own, decide that they want a nurse.”

The bill received unanimous approval in the House of Delegates on March 13, and now needs approval from the Finance Committee before it heads to the Senate floor.

The legislation comes at the recommendation of an independent study conducted by Ernst & Young LLP, which urged legislators to “prioritize” hiring an executive director with “strong management, strategy and leadership experience.”

“Reconsider the requirement the Executive Director be an RN as 27% of Boards of Nursing in the United States do not have an RN as their Executive Director, and there is substantial clinical, education, examination, and judicial experience and expertise among MBON leadership currently to support a non-RN Executive Director,” the consulting group recommended.

An additional study from the Maryland Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability on Dec. 23 came to the same conclusion.

Secretary of Health Laura Herrera Scott (D) said that the Department of Health was supportive of the legislation. She referenced her time as the deputy director of public health within the department and searching for an executive leader. She hired someone who was not a physician.

She said that she was “looking for an executive that can lead a team, that could manage a budget, that could do customer service.”

“I was looking for other features in the leadership of the board. And because you have enough expertise in the number of nurses that actually work for the board. And your board that actually works with the executive director is mostly comprised of nursing…that was enough subject matter expertise.”

But members of the Maryland Nursing Association, a statewide nonprofit professional membership organization, think that the executive director of the state board overseeing Maryland’s nurses should have an RN license. Catherine Ling, a registered nurse of over 30 years, said that many nurses are trained in administrative or legal practices that help them qualify for the executive director position.

“We are requesting that the executive director, as part of the qualifications, remain a nurse,” Ling said. “We have nurses that are MBAs (Master of Business Administration), JDs (Juris Doctor), degrees in informatics. I, myself, am a nurse scientist and certified in education. So we wear a lot of hats,” she told the Senate Finance committee, in opposing the bill.

Nurse practitioner Christine Simon-Waterman also spoke against the legislation, saying that “having a nurse at the head of that organization means a lot to the nurses of Maryland.”


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Lawmakers consider removing RN requirement for nursing board’s executive director