Minnesota News Connection

April 27, 2020

Some MN Nurses Want to Help on Front Lines, But Can’t

Mike Moen

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Some hospital systems in Minnesota have issued layoffs and furloughs, citing revenue losses in the pandemic. Nurses are among those cut, and a key union says some of its members are limited in seeking other positions.

Over the weekend, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order opening the door for out-of-state health care workers to assist in Minnesota’s fight against COVID-19. It said they do not need to obtain a Minnesota license, but do need to have a license in their home state.

Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said it’s frustrating when local nurses who are furloughed can’t pick up that extra work because of on-call requirements.

“They can go away on furlough, but they’ve got to be able to come back within 24 hours,” Turner said. “Well, that doesn’t give our nurses any chance to go and find another job at one of the nursing homes, where they desperately need help.”

The governor’s office did not respond by deadline to a request for comment. But the order does call on providers to fully utilize Minnesota’s health care workforce during the crisis, and provide flexibility for staff members in employment arrangements.

Turner said she also believes the state and its providers have lagged behind in training local nurses who don’t currently work in Intensive Care Units, to prepare them to work in a critical-care setting.

“This past two months, they could have been training up our ‘med-surg’ nurses, our procedure nurses, to be able to be ICU nurses,” she said.

Turner said she fears those ICU jobs also will go to out-of-state workers. In issuing the order, Gov. Walz cited staffing shortages at long-term care facilities, and the possibility of local hospitals and clinics becoming overwhelmed.