'What about us': Furloughed nurses and MNA raise concerns about new order allowing out-of-state nurses

The Minnesota Nurses Association is raising concerns about a new order issued by Gov. Walz that allows nurses from other states to come work in Minnesota even if they don’t have a Minnesota license.

The announcement comes as hundreds of Minnesota nurses who are not working on the front lines are being furloughed from their positions and are receiving unemployment benefits. After the executive order was announced Saturday the Minnesota Nurses Association came out with a statement saying in part: 

“Hospitals are forcing healthcare facilities to bring in health professionals from other parts of the country who will not only do work that could be done by Minnesota’s skilled nursing workforce, but they will also make significantly higher salaries.”

Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, says hospitals should be training out-of-work nurses who normally work in other areas of the hospital to be ready to work with coronavirus patients. 

“All of this should have been training time. Training for our nurses who are now furloughed and laid off,” Turner said. 

One of those furloughed nurses is Mariya Elverum Buxton. She works at Children’s St. Paul as a sedation and procedural services nurse getting kids ready to undergo MRIs, CT scans or other procedures where kids have a difficult time sitting still. Because many of those procedures are being put on hold right now, she was officially furloughed from Children’s on April 18 without pay. 

“I never thought in a million years thought a nurse would be without a job. It’s kind of a crazy time,” Elverum Buxton said. 

She says she was surprised to hear that bringing in nurses from others states would even be an option with many Minnesota nurses sitting on the sidelines waiting to get back to work. 

“I chose nurses because I want to help people and I’m not helping people right now,” Elverum Buxton said.

The executive order from Gov. Walz also allows out-of-state workers to fill positions at long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Turner agrees that these facilities do need extra help but some out-of-work nurses like Elverum Buxton say they can’t fill those positions while on furlough without running the risk of losing their hospital job. 

"They couldn’t tell me that I would still have my job if I went somewhere else,” Elverum Buxton said.

On Saturday, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan appeared on the FOX 9 morning news where she was asked about the Minnesota Nurse’s Association’s concerns. She said the administration has been working closely with MNA and hospitals to address nurses’ concerns.

"48 other states are doing the same thing and we need to be ready if there’s a surge,” Lt. Gov. Flanagan said.