In a rare example of bipartisanship, a Democratic lawmaker teamed up with Gov. Paul LePage to pass a bill that allows returning military veterans with nursing experience to bypass state education requirements and immediately take the state exam to become licensed practical nurses.

Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, a former Marine, said he’s been working to get this passed for years – an earlier bill was watered down in committee and vetoed by the governor – and he’s glad it finally passed this session as a governor’s bill.

Currently, applicants must take a year of course work before sitting for the state licensing exam.

Under the new law, which went into effect Wednesday, anyone who was on active duty in the medical corps of any branch of the U.S. military, was honorably discharged, spent at least 12 months providing bedside patient care, and passed the military branch’s basic nursing course may sit immediately for the exam.

Golden said it will make a big difference for returning veterans.

“It’s really demoralizing to come home after four, eight or 10 years of what feels like a career started and be told, actually, that’s not good enough here and you have to go to college,” he said.

Other states have similar programs recognizing military training, he said.

“California has been doing this for a long time. The (Maine) requirements don’t take into consideration how extensive prior life experience can be,” said Golden, the House assistant majority leader.

Licensed practical nurses work under the supervision of a registered nurse, doing such tasks as administering medications and injections and taking vital signs.

In testimony this year, the executive director of the Maine State Board of Nursing questioned whether the military experience prepared applicants in the same way as course work.

“The military occupations lack content in the nursing process, health promotion and prevention, care of the pediatric patient, care of the obstetric patient, care of the older adult/geriatric patient, and chronic care management,” Kim Esquibel said. “For those who have only worked on the battlefield, course work is needed on the health care delivery system, including hospital systems and long-term care.”

Golden served two combat tours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He is now running for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat, challenging Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in what has been described as one of the five most competitive contests in the nation.

He said he was glad he worked with LePage on what is likely one of the last pieces of legislation for both of them.

Golden’s original bill was changed in committee to require additional course work, so the governor vetoed it. Golden asked the governor to resubmit the original bill for the Legislature to vote on and it passed last month.

“The governor and I don’t agree on a lot of things and we’ve traded our political jabs over the years,” Golden said. “But I’ve always understood that doesn’t mean you can’t work together. I’m glad this was done on a bipartisan basis with the governor. That’s the way it should be.”

Last year, Golden and LePage worked together on another veteran-related licensing bill, giving the commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation the ability to modify licensing requirements on a case-by-case basis for applicants who are military veterans.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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