‘It’s just been a nightmare’: Md. health department licensing platforms experience outages

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 27, 2020 file photo, Medical personnel adjust their personal protective equipment while working in the emergency department at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan in New York. Hospitals and nursing homes in New York are bracing for the possibility that a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers could lead to staff shortages when it takes effect Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. Doctors and nurses — and also support staff, like food service workers and cleaners — have been given until Sept. 27 to get at least their first vaccine shot in one of the nation's most aggressive plans to protect patients. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)(AP/John Minchillo)
The platforms used to issue licenses on the Maryland Department of Health website are seeing “temporary system outages,” as nursing and other health professions face shortages created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issue appears to stem from the cyberattack on the Department of Health website. The attack was first reported on Dec. 5.

Sharon Meadors, of Allegheny County, Maryland, told WTOP that she took the exam to become a licensed therapist over the summer and is frustrated in the delay of her license.

She said that while the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists has been helpful, they’re unable to issue her license because of the outage at the Maryland Department of Health.

Meadors said she spent around $1,000 toward the process of taking the exam and applying for the license and can’t get her money back. She’s been waiting almost a month for answers.

“I got to the final piece and the board responded back, ‘Yes, you’ve been approved, but the system at the health department went down over the weekend,'” Meadors said.

“So everything’s on hold until I get my license.”

Her current job has her in a support role and she said they’re waiting on a key piece before bringing her on as a paid therapist — her license number.

“Until I get this license, they can’t credential me,” Meadors said. “It’s just been a nightmare.”

Meadors said that two of her nieces are waiting for issuance of their nursing licenses.

Health department spokesman Andy Owen told WTOP that the Maryland Board of Nursing is developing alternative procedures for candidates whose initial licensure as a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse has been affected by temporary system outages.

He said nurses who received their initial licenses prior to Dec. 4 can verify their license status on a separate website.

For nursing candidates who didn’t receive an initial license prior to Dec. 4, he said that the board is working with the Office of Nursing to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to develop a plan to issue authorizations to test and grant temporary licenses to those who have passed their licensure examination.

The board will then contact candidates individually by phone and/or email when the plan takes effect, according to Owen.

He said that nursing candidates should note that they may be able to work under “nursing graduate” status. The board is working with the Maryland Department of Health to propose emergency regulations to extend the timeframe for practicing as a nursing graduate from 90 to 120 days, if certain conditions are met, Owen said.

WTOP has asked the health department how people seeking other health licenses might be able to get information on temporary licensure as well.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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