Governor moves to prevent backlog of license approvals for 166 medical professionals

By: - September 8, 2022 2:13 pm
Siembra health care tour

Siembra interns tour a CHI Health facility to learn about different health care careers. (Courtesy of Latino Center of the Midlands)

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts took action Thursday to unclog a backlog of approvals of state licenses for more than 150 health professionals. 

This spring, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill requiring the state to submit fingerprints of certain health care workers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for national criminal background checks.

FBI wants new law amended

But the FBI has not begun processing the fingerprints and has instead is requiring the state to revise the statute passed this spring.

That, in turn, has prevented 166 health care professionals from having their licenses approved, according to a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services spokesman, and being approved to work in Nebraska.

Ricketts, in a press release, said that because the State Legislature will not be able to amend the law until it reconvenes in January, he signed an executive order to allow the Nebraska State Patrol instead to conduct the fingerprint background checks.

The order involves audiologists, speech-language pathologists, licensed independent mental health practitioners, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants.

Disciplinary records checked, too

Dannette Smith, the CEO of the Nebraska DHHS, said the order allows her department to begin processing applications to practice in Nebraska.

Jeff Powell, a DHHS spokesman, said Thursday that the agency has begun reaching out to the 166 health care professionals who were victims of the problem. 

Besides criminal background checks, the state also checks national databases to see whether an applicant has faced disciplinary action previously in other states or jurisdictions.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.