HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Department of State announced “ongoing improvements” to the Pennsylvania nurse licensing process following an abc27 investigation into the speed of the temporary practice permit (TPP) process.

According to the Department of State, applicants’ criminal histories were reviewed before a TPP was granted. Under the new process, board staff will issue a TPP immediately upon confirmation of the applicant’s graduation from a Pennsylvania nursing school. Criminal history records will still be reviewed before a nursing license is issued.

The criminal history report information was corrected by the Department of State after a previous release stated licenses would be issued prior to a review of criminal history records.

In addition, the department has automated processes through the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) that used to be manual, and those changes will also reduce processing times for TPPs.   

The changes come after multiple nursing graduates told abc27 Investigators that the state was “holding us up.” Graduates complained of being stuck on hold when calling the State Nursing Board, a number that was out of service when abc27 Investigators attempted to call.

“Nursing school is hard and you just went through all of that and now you can’t work, all because the State is holding us up,”, a nursing graduate Katie Gregory said.

“There has been a lot of frustration and concerns,” nursing graduate Madison Walker said.

According to Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh M. Chapman, 570 nursing graduates who were waiting for their TPPs have received them.

“We see this improvement as one way to help ease the nursing shortage across Pennsylvania,” said Chapman.  

According to the PA Department of State, the State Board of Nursing has received about 5,000 applications between May and early July.

The abc27 Investigators asked what steps nursing graduates can take to get some help.

“One of their courses would be that they can call into the board and speak to some of our employees,” said Arion Claggett, Acting Commissioner for the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

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TPPs allow graduates of Pennsylvania nursing schools to begin their careers in healthcare while their applications for full initial licensure are processed by the State Board of Nursing. Full initial licensure is a process that requires approximately 8 to 10 weeks for completion, so TPPs are an important tool that allows nursing graduates to work in supervised settings while they prepare to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), one of the most important requirements for Registered Nurse (RN) licensure.  

“This permanent change to the TPP approval process came about for multiple reasons, including the feedback we received from nursing schools, healthcare systems and other nurse employers, as well as from nursing applicants themselves,” Chapman said.

“Now, we are able to issue a TPP as soon as a nursing applicant submits a full application, pays the requisite fees, and has their school provide proof they have graduated,” Chapman continued. “In short, we changed the order of the application review process so nursing graduates are able to work in a supervised healthcare setting and gain practical experience as they prepare for their all-important NCLEX exam.”  

“Given the extended nursing shortage across Pennsylvania, we hope this TPP process improvement makes a significant difference in the healthcare workforce as they bring on newly qualified nursing graduates preparing to take their NCLEX exam,” Chapman said.   

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