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Illinois medical license system still plagued with delays despite new mandate

OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center

People seeking medical licenses in Illinois are still facing delays, despite the passage of a law to modernize the system.

Illinois still uses a paper system, with people mailing in their applications. OSF Healthcare Chief Human Resource Officer Shelley Parn said this system causes an average delay of 30 days for new hires, which can cause problems when they need to fill a position.

“It's not a rush, but being able to get them moving on that trajectory so that we can provide the right staffing levels at all times of the day, and the right care setting,” she said. “So at the end of the day, it's really about the patient. It's about quality and safety, but it's also about our workforce and them feeling like they have the right team around them to do the work.”

Parn said there is very little correspondence after an application is submitted, meaning many applicants don’t know when they will receive their license.

She said at OSF they start people based on pay periods, so a 30-day delay can then cause an even longer delay. For new graduates with debt, this can cause them to choose a job in a different state.

“It absolutely plays a role,” Parn said. “So if you think about how the education system works, they graduate, big big bulks of [registered nurses] and other modalities at certain times of the year. And so your ability to attract talent in the state of Illinois in those offseasons as a percentage is not as high.”

Republican Rep. Bill Hauter of Morton, who is also an anesthesiologist, said this issue impacts all healthcare workers, from nurses and doctors to pharmacists and physical therapists. He said the problems have only gotten worse with workforce shortages.

“With this shortage we have in all the medical fields, with having temporary workers come from out of state,” Hauter said. “So therefore, it puts a great strain on the licensing process, because you're having so many applications for licenses in Illinois from out of state workers.”

A measure passed by the state legislature in November requires the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation overseeing this process to purchase software to modernize it. Hauter said the department failed to meet the 90 day bidding timeline.

“It's keeping Illinois from getting the highly trained highly compensated medical workers and health care workers in Illinois, and patients are suffering,” Hauter said. “Patients are going without care or they're delaying care because we don't have enough nurses, doctors and other health care professionals.”

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.