Licensure Delays in Washington State

Infinity Rehab team members Angie Quesnell M.S. CCC-SLP, Regional SLP Mentor, and Carolyn Staples, M.S. CCC-SLP, Area Rehab Director, have always considered themselves strong advocates. So when a significant issue with licensure approval timelines bubbled to the surface in Washington State, it was a natural fit for them both to be involved.
Their involvement with Leadership Academy further inspired this advocacy. “We have to advocate on behalf of all professionals,” noted Carolyn.

“There is more risk if we don’t dig in on the issues and challenge the process.”

Their observation was that new therapists are experiencing longer than average wait times from application submission to licensure or interim permit issuance in Washington. It has proven to be an issue that continues to be compounded year after year, bringing us to the issue it is today. This year, it is taking eight to ten weeks (or more) for interim permits or licenses to be posted and active for physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, certified occupational therapy assistants, and speech-language pathologists. This timeline far exceeds the average processing timeline in other states.

The Cause of the Delays

Many factors contribute to these delays. Reports show application processing involves multiple Washington Department of Health professionals and can be held up at any point, moving through multiple hands. Angie and Carolyn noted that, “In order to drive operational success, businesses must address process inefficiencies and implement changes to drive successful work flow.”
Angie and Carolyn recognized the need to advocate for change, in part due to the multitude of impacts created by the delays. Examples of such impacts include: healthcare provider shortage, start date planning for new therapists, inefficiencies in planning for therapy coverage in facilities, and financial hardship for new therapists.

Advocating for Change

Angie and Carolyn sent written correspondence about the impact of licensure processing delays to their Washington State senator and representatives. This led to two meetings to educate and collaborate on licensure delays and the inefficient method of Washington background checks for contractors in skilled nursing facilities. During the meeting with Representative Joe Schmick, who is a member of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, he communicated his support and plan of action to address Angie and Carolyn’s concerns. He pledged to focus his efforts to keep quality healthcare affordable, accountable, and accessible to all, especially those in underserved rural areas.
Angie and Carolyn also shared their concerns with Robin Dale, President and CEO of the Washington Health Care Association. They discussed the impacts of the licensure processing delays and the inefficient background check process on patients, clinicians, employers, and providers. Dale, who confirmed he was aware of the issue, connected Carolyn with Lauri St. Ours, WHCA Director of Government and Legislative Relations.

Testifying in Olympia

Angie and Carolyn’s efforts paid off last December. They were invited to testify at the Aging and Disability Joint Legislative and Executive Committee in Olympia. Angie provided an oral and written testimony to the committee to share the professional challenges and advocate for solutions.
“It was uplifting and inspiring to bring these issues forward,” stated Angie. “It is very challenging when it is our job to make a positive impact to support patient progress that we cannot move forward because we are waiting on the processing of an application package.”
Her testimony also touched on the negative impacts of the delays. Additionally, she highlighted issues with the current process at times causing unnecessary duplicative background checks and challenges with employers not having direct access to said checks.

What’s Next

Both Angie and Carolyn are optimistic as they look ahead to 2019. They are confident that the work they have done, the groups and representatives they have networked with, as well as Angie’s compelling testimony, will forge change on this issue.
Moreover, they are proud of the model and example they have set for new clinicians. Angie noted, “I’ve seen the impact on new clinicians and felt this was a critical issue to address to support a positive transition into their new position.”

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