Utilizing Medical Professionals with an Inactive License: An Option for Dealing with COVID-19


On March 17, 2020, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation declaring a Public Health Disaster Emergency.  Section Ten of the Proclamation stated as follows:

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 29C.6 (6), I temporarily suspend the regulatory provisions of Iowa Code § 147.10 and Iowa Admin. Code rules 653-9.13(6) and 9.14, rules 655-3.7(5), rules 645-261.8, and rules 645-326.9(8), and all other implementing administrative rules which prohibit the practice of medicine and surgery, osteopathic medicine and surgery, nursing, respiratory care, and practice as a physician assistant, by a licensee whose license is inactive or lapsed.  Suspension of these provisions is limited to licenses which have lapsed or expired within the five (5) years prior to this Proclamation and is further limited to the provision of medical and nursing care and treatment of victims of this public health disaster emergency and solely for the duration of this Proclamation.

In order to deal with the declared public health emergency, this provision of the Proclamation allows nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and physician assistants who were previously licensed in Iowa within the last five years to provide medical or nursing care and treatment to victims of COVID-19 during the time of the emergency.

Health care providers wishing to utilize inactive medical providers under this provision must still take certain steps, however, to ensure that those with an inactive license can safely provide patient care.  The Iowa Board of Nursing has issued the following recommended steps before employing a nurse with an inactive license:

  • Verify with the Iowa Board of Nursing that the nurse has an inactive license that has been inactive for less than five (5) years
  • Check the Iowa Board of Nursing online services to determine whether the nurse had any public discipline
  • Check the Abuse Registry
  • Check the Office of Inspector General Exclusionary List

While the Iowa Board of Medicine and the Board governing respiratory therapists did not issue additional guidance, these same steps should be followed with regard to any profession subject to this Proclamation.  The Iowa Board of Nursing’s full Memorandum regarding this provision of the Proclamation can be found HERE

If you are aware of recently retired medical professionals in your community that may need to be called in to assist with COVID-19 patients, now is the time to reach out to those individuals and engage in the steps set forth above.  It is important to conduct these steps to “clear” individuals with a lapsed or inactive license, even in an emergency situation.

For nurses and other medical providers covered by the Proclamation that have allowed their Iowa license to lapse or become inactive in the last five years, now is the time to reach out to your local hospital and let them know that you would be ready to assist if necessary. 

While all Iowans hope that it will not come to this, it is good for everyone to be prepared and to not allow precious time to be spent on the necessary checks and paperwork to allow an inactively licensed nurse or other medical provider back in the doors to help during this crisis.  This is yet another area during this emergency health situation where planning is key.

If you are a provider and have questions about utilizing this option to assist your local hospital or if you are a hospital or other care provider looking to engage inactively licensed health care professionals and need assistance with these steps, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the BrownWinick Health Law team.