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Nursing graduates authorized to work in hospitals before getting licensed

The temporary order helps understaffed hospitals and recent nursing graduates looking for employment.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new order by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation allows nursing graduates to work in hospitals before they get licensed. 

This not only helps understaffed hospitals but recent graduates looking for employment.

Quentin Sills is graduating from Midlands Tech with a nursing degree next Friday. Typically, his next step would be to take a licensing exam called the NCLEX to become a registered nurse. COVID-19 is getting in the way of that.

“With the pandemic, with the social distance and everything, they have cut down the number of available slots and testing centers that you can actually go to for the NCLEX. I've heard that it could take up to even two months for some people to get scheduled to take the NCLEX,” Sills says.

Until now, if someone didn’t pass the NCLEX and get licensed, they couldn’t work in a health care facility as a nurse.

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DHEC and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation have passed a temporary order to allow nursing graduates to work in health care facilities during the pandemic.

In a statement online, acting director of DHEC, Marshall Taylor, said “This joint order with the State Board of Nursing is a vital step towards making sure our hospitals, clinics and health care facilities have skilled, newly trained nurses available to assist South Carolinians during this prolonged public health crisis.”

Sills says, “I'm very excited about it. Especially because our nurses that are currently in the hospitals, they have been working very hard throughout the pandemic. A lot of them work extra shifts, work longer hours than normal. So just to be able to provide that support once we're able to start.”

Sills has applied to work at Prisma Health and Lexington Medical Center. If he gets the job, he’ll go into a residency program where he’ll be trained by experienced nurses.

“My goal is to work in an intensive care unit. I'm excited about it, excited to get started. Hopefully I'm able to take advantage of those opportunities.” Sills is taking the NCLEX in a few weeks.

There are currently about 200 nursing graduates in South Carolina. This order will help them get jobs, support our current overwhelmed front lines and save lives during the pandemic.